It has been suggested that Neil Warnock could take legal action after a series of critical and allegedly derogatory tweets were brought to his attention. The tweets were posted by Crystal Palace winger Jason Puncheon. Although now deleted, The Guardian has referred to them as “potentially libellous”. Warnock responded, insisting “if it’s been suggested that I’ve done anything untoward I want to confirm that I most certainly have not”.
The dispute arose after Puncheon’s former manager criticised the 27-year old on radio station talkSPORT following his missed penalty in a match on Saturday. Puncheon responded with several tweets, apparently attacking Warnock’s conduct when he was his Manager at Queens Park Rangers. Puncheon concluded by saying that he could live with “banter and opinions” but would not accept his 65-year old former boss’s opinion.
Puncheon swiftly deleted the tweets. Whilst Warnock denies any wrongdoing, he has said that the “matter is being addressed indirectly”, suggesting either that this may be a storm in a tea-cup, or that legal wheels are in motion.
Given that the tweets would only have appeared on the timelines of Puncheon’s relatively modest 9,000 followers and fans, it is difficult to say how much damage Warnock’s reputation may have suffered, if any, but with many defamation cases, the legal costs often outweigh any potential financial damages. A sensible resolution avoiding expensive court action will often be a more desirable outcome for all concerned, especially given that the Defamation Act, which only came into force on 1 January, has addressed the balance between free speech and protecting reputation, raising the test for defamation to one of “serious harm”.
We will have to wait and see if any further action is taken, but for now the battle will most likely steer away from social media channels.