Does a professional footballer have the right to protect his privacy?

Does a professional footballer have the right to protect his privacy?

The recent Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo)ruling of 29 June 2020 has ratified the Madrid Provincial Court’s decision to protect the privacy of a well-known first division footballer.

The conflict dates back to 2014, when the footballer’s former partner made a series of statements for Interviú magazine in which she said: “I got pregnant, but we decided not to have it because we were too young”, “I got pregnant and we considered having it. But, I was 20 years old: I wasn’t ready to be a mother and we decided to have an abortion”.

Faced with such demonstrations, the footballer turned to the civil jurisdiction in order to protect his honor, privacy and own image under the protection of the Law 1/1982 of 5 May, and the lawsuit was rejected in the first instance, appealing to the competent superior body; starting only with the protection of the athlete’s privacy, given the scarce general interest that the litigious news aroused.

The Provincial Court of Madrid understood that there was an intrusion in the privacy of the footballer, and now the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court clarified that the public relevance of the interview was not debated, since the footballer was and is considered a person of public projection.

It is even considered that, at that time, given that his current team (Atletico de Madrid) was the league champion, the assiduity with which he used to intervene in the sports media was notorious.

However, the judgment states that “the decisive factor in confirming the existence of unlawful interference with privacy is that it has not been proved that prior to the occurrence of the demonstrations in question the applicant had adopted patterns of behaviour that would allow it to be understood that the public was aware of her decision to have an abortion”.

Therefore, it was this unilateral decision, without the consent of his former partner, to make public a decision as intimate as that of voluntarily terminating the pregnancy, which could result in a series of prejudices in his public and private, personal and professional spheres – before possible reproaches that could be made to him by those who did not share this decision from an opposing ideological position – that made the footballer’s right to privacy prevail.

In this way, the Provincial Court assessed the moral damage in the amount of 45,000 euros, taking into account all the circumstances mentioned, and the Supreme Court ratified this assessment by observing that there was no notorious error or arbitrariness in the assessment of the proportionality of this amount.

In AVERUM Abogados we understand, in the same way as the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court does, that professional football players enjoy the right to privacy regardless of the fact that they are part of the well-known “sports press”. Remember that everything that is limited to your professional activity will be of marked general interest, but not that which is limited to your private life.