While primarily known in the Western world as a famous footballer, back in his home country of Ivory Coast, Didier is a role model to deprived young children.
Having set up the Didier Drogba Foundation in 2007 with the aim of providing healthcare and education in Africa, the footballer has stated that his fame would mean nothing to him if he weren’t able to give back to his country and community.
It has therefore come as a kick in the teeth that the Daily Mail has reported alleged findings that a mere one per cent of the £1.7m raised by the Didier Drogba Foundation in the UK has gone to help good causes in Africa.
Unsurprisingly, Didier did not waste time in taking legal action against the Mail for libel.
The speed at which news spreads – irrespective of whether claims made are true or false – is like wildfire and the potential damage in this instance can be enormous.
Being dropped from sponsorship deals, the potential damage to his football career and even the dismantling of the Didier Drogba Foundation are all realistic potential consequences arising from claims made by the Mail.
Mere speculation around a negative story can cast a dark cloud over a celebrity’s reputation, but this goes a step further.
When a celebrity has built their reputation around helping save the lives of thousands of African children, the fact that the good reputation of the Didier Drogba Foundation is now in jeopardy should factor into Didier’s legal case.
Given that a charity is involved, the Charity Commission is obliged to take such accusations very seriously.
Its primary concern is to ensure that the public’s faith in the vital role played by charities is not jeopardised, however the charities watchdog’s involvement along with the "serious regulatory concerns" that it has expressed are further adding fuel to the fire in tarnishing Didier’s reputation.
The destruction that can follow in the wake of a libellous story can appear to be endless when it is spread across the media.
It has recently been reported that more than ever before, newsroom pressure is letting fake stories on to the web, and the media is becoming increasingly wary of the consequences associated with publishing false claims.
Didier’s pursuit of justice against the Mail will therefore likely continue to garner lots of public interest.
Didier is right in using social media to voice his side of the story, however it will be a difficult feat for the footballer to avoid negative publicity given the claims that have been made and the ongoing investigation into the Foundation.
Being seen to take prompt and decisive legal action will assist in preventing further damage.
Where the defendant says it will justify a claim, a court will always allow the publication of libellous allegations, meaning that the continued risk of adverse publicity must be taken.
It would be a good time for Didier to concentrate on a crisis-management PR strategy while continuing legal proceedings.
Christopher Hutchings is head of media litigation at Hamlins LLP
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