UK: Sporting Leaks - Brand Beckham Takes A Hit While Arscott Pays A Heavy Price For Sibling Rivalry

Last Updated: 12 April 2017
Article by Michael Patrick

Last month two high profile albeit very different cases highlighted the risk of data leaks in a sporting context

On 14 February 2017 the Queen officially opened the government's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in Victoria, London. 

Unfortunately this all came too late for David Beckham. A week later it was revealed that a year previously hackers had illegally accessed 18.6 million emails and documents from the servers of Doyen Sports, the sports agency responsible for running the ex-footballer's PR machine. 

According to reports published by various media outlets across Europe, including by The Sun in this country, the leaked emails suggested that Beckham had previously used his charity work as part of a campaign to be awarded a knighthood. In the messages, the former England football captain is alleged to have criticised the Honours Committee and complained about the singer Katherine Jenkins being awarded an OBE. Other emails reportedly saw Beckham react negatively to a suggested donation to Unicef, of which he is a goodwill ambassador. 

The Beckham PR machine hit back with his spokesperson releasing a statement claiming that the messages were "outdated material taken out of context" and gave a "deliberately inaccurate picture". The statement also claimed that the alleged emails were "hacked", "doctored" and "private". 

The story took a fresh turn with the suggestion that the hackers, apparently from Russia, had actually tried to blackmail the sports agency into paying them between €500,000 and €1m in return for them not disclosing the material. The police in Portugal had reportedly been investigating the attempted blackmail for a year and Beckham was apparently not the explicit target of the hack but was "caught in the crossfire". 

Regardless of whether Beckham was the intended target of the hack or not, the case highlights wider lessons relating to cyber security for all organisations and individuals (not just celebrities such as the former England football captain). The sports sector is not immune from this threat. Whilst there has been an increasing focus on cyber security in the corporate world, the propensity to communicate and store highly confidential information in electronic form means that an array of highly sensitive material, personal and professional, is available to anyone who breaches the system. As Doyen Sports have seen, the reputational and financial impact of a cyber-attack can be immense. 

Whilst the risk cannot be eradicated, a considerable amount of work can be carried out on the legal, as well as technical and communications side, to reduce the risk and to be prepared to respond well to any breach. It is now accepted that all organisations no matter how large or small should be prepared for 'when', not 'if' they suffer a cyber-attack. The same applies to individuals and those that act for them. 

Going forward it is too early to say what damage, if any, has been caused to the Beckham brand by what has happened. Plainly his PR Machine is now working overtime and it will be interesting to see what action he and his advisors take over the next few months to try to mitigate the situation. According to reports, Beckham obtained an injunction against the Sunday Times last year to prevent the publication of the emails. However, it now appears that he and his advisors chose not to try to stop The Sun publishing its story, possibly mindful of the PJS legal debacle last year, but seemingly influenced by the fact that the email cache had also been leaked to a series of European websites, which began publishing them before the story hit the headlines in this country. In essence the horse had bolted. 

One should always be careful about second guessing the advice given by others but this situation is clearly different to PJS. In that case the celebrity involved sought to stop the press reporting on an extra-marital threesome. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that Beckham and his advisors are the alleged victims of one or more criminal offences. It is difficult to be certain whether it was the correct decision not to try to stop The Sun from publishing its story, although avoiding potentially long and public legal action is one good reason not to have pursued the injunction. In any event Beckham must hope the public will consider the emails to be embarrassing and soon to be forgotten. For now though the messages make for uncomfortable reading and he and his advisers must be praying there are not further revelations to come.

Cases such as David Beckham's highlight the increasing cyber threat. However, not all leaks are as sophisticated of course. Last month, the RFU confirmed the outcome of its investigation into Tom Arscott who was sacked by the Aviva Rugby club Sale Sharks following reports that "tactical information" had been leaked to Bristol Rugby after Arscott had met his brother Luke (who plays for Bristol) the night before the two teams were due to play a Premiership match. 

The RFU's report found that Arscott had discussed with his brother ahead of the match how Sale Sharks planned to use some backs in their lineouts and that another back would be defending in a different position at certain times. Notwithstanding that there was no evidence to suggest Bristol Rugby "changed any of their game strategy" as a result of receiving what the RFU held to be "Inside Information" it was still held that Arscott had breached Regulation 17 of the RFU's Rules and Regulations. As a result the RFU deemed Arscott's behaviour to be "inappropriate" and issued him with a written warning in relation to his future conduct. 

Given that Arscott had already been dismissed from his employment by Sale Sharks as a result of what happened, it is difficult not to have some sympathy with him. In this respect the RFU accepted that he had paid "a heavy price" for a conversation which Arscott had described as nothing more than "banter" and an example of "sibling rivalry". 

Summary 

The Beckham and Arscott cases are clearly different. However, they do highlight the importance of private and confidential information to an organisation or individual and the risk of leaks whether from internal sources or outside. It is obviously impossible to plan for each and every crisis. They come in different guises, whether it is a cyber-hack in Beckham's case or a drink in a hotel bar as with Arscott and his brother. However there are steps that can and should be taken for all organisations and individuals to make sure they are prepared to deal with issues as best as they can. In both the Beckham and Arscott cases could more have been done in advance, either on the technological, legal or even training side? Looking from the outside it is difficult to judge. However, as with all crises, those involved will have learned valuable lessons. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.