Herald Rangers row: Editor says legal threat led to columnists' exit

The Herald's editor-in-chief Magnus Llewellin has offered his reasons for the controversial departures of two columnists over an article related to Rangers football club.

Magnus Llewellin

Sunday Herald columnist and former reporter for The Drum, Angela Haggerty, was sacked after showing her support for colleague and sports reporter, Graham Spiers, who departed following pressure for a column he wrote in which he questioned “the mettle” of the current Rangers board in tackling offensive chanting.

Llewellin (pictured) issued a statement to The Drum insisting that while one of the newspaper's advertisers was on the board at Rangers this “was never an issue and we shall continue to report and comment on the pressing issues of the day without fear or favour”.

Rangers supporters took issue with Spiers’ article which stated that an unnamed Rangers director admitted that he thought The Billy Boys was “a great song”.

Following Haggerty’s sacking and Spiers’ departure Llewellin said that the claims made in Spiers’ 30 December 2015 article “presented a legal issue which had to be addressed and which was discussed at length, by all parties involved.”

“The issue was whether we could defend in court a contentious statement and the advice given was that we could not. Finally, on clear legal advice, we were left with no option other than to apologise and seek to draw a line under the matter," Llewellin said.

He continued: “After the apology was published we had to abide by it and the spirit in which it was published. Unfortunately that apology was then undermined and we had to take appropriate action.

“Our titles have a long history of supporting quality journalism and defending free speech and robust comment. This made all the more difficult the action we had to take.”

The columnists' departures was criticised by the National Union of Journalists which described the Herald as "pandering to the mob".

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.