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Football club reports tabloids' fan death coverage to press watchdog

A Welsh football club has claimed that three national newspapers' coverage on the death of a fan at a recent international match breached reporting rules.14 Sep 2011

Cardiff City Football Club has asked the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to look into coverage of the death of Mike Dye by The Sun, Daily Mirror and Daily Mail. Dye was found injured prior to Wales' match with England at Wembley last week and later died in hospital.

Cardiff said the tabloids' coverage following the "tragic events" had been "insensitive" and said the papers had drawn "unfounded connections" from the events surrounding his death. Reports had suggested Dye had been involved in a clash with Swansea fans.

The Mail said that Dye has posted comments on a football forum claiming that he had been banned from attending football in 1986 following a "pitch invasion and fisticuffs" at Peterborough, according to a report in the Press Gazette. The Sun said Dye was "closely associated" with Cardiff's 'Soul Crew', which the paper described as "trouble-seeking louts", according to the Press Gazette.

Cardiff claims that that the tabloids broke rules on accuracy and intrusion into grief or shock that are set out in the Editors' Code of Practice, according to the Press Gazette. The Editors' Code is a set of self-regulatory standards for editors and journalists. It sets out behaviour journalists should observe when reporting.

Under the Code newspapers "must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures" and must correct significant inaccuracies promptly. Newspapers also "must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact".

When reporting stories that involve personal grief or shock, journalists' "enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively," the Code also states.

"It is our opinion that The Daily Mirror, The Sun and Daily Mail have acted insensitively towards the memory of Mike Dye at a time when his family are still in the early stages of mourning their loss," a Cardiff statement said.

"The tabloid attempts to draw tenuous connections of possible clashes between Cardiff City and Swansea City supporters at the Wales v England match come without any direct evidence or basis for doing so, using this as a means to cite 'Rivalry fury'," it said. "This is something that we consider to be extremely disrespectful to both clubs and supporters following many positive steps being taken between both clubs in recent years, specifically in light of the sympathies being shared by both clubs and all supporters over this tragic incident."

A PCC spokesman told Out-Law.com that it had received a complaint about The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Star newspapers. He said the watchdog had not received a complaint about the Daily Mirror. The spokesman said the PCC had "no remit" to investigate complaints against the Daily Star as it is "not subscribed" to the Editors' Code.

Currently the PCC can 'name and shame' publications that break the Editors' Code and ask them to publish apologies, but it has no legal powers to enforce punishments such as fines for violations of the Code.