By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
30 October 2012
Liverpool’s managing director Ian Ayre has apologised in writing on behalf of the club for the inappropriate behaviour of communications director Jen Chang towards Liverpool fan Sean Cummins, the creator of spoof journalist ‘Duncan Jenkins’, during a meeting between the pair on 22 August and in the days afterwards.
Cummins, a 35-year-old copy writer from south Manchester, gained 40,000 followers for Jenkins’ Twitter account, where he tweeted misspelled nonsense, malapropisms, Colemanballs and ‘inside’ information that had actually been picked up second-, third- and fourth-hand from around the internet.
Chang became so concerned about ‘perspiring journalist’ Jenkins, who described himself as a member of the blogging ‘paternity’, that he met Cummins in a Manchester restaurant on 22 August and asked Cummins to tweet as Jenkins that a) ‘Jenkins’ was not real; b) ‘Jenkins’ had no club mole.
Cummins detailed the meeting and the aftermath in an explosive blog post on 12 October, in which he outlined a series of accusations against Chang, including that Chang had effectively threatened to ban him from games by cancelling his shared season ticket.
The full extent of Chang’s alleged threats is detailed in the blog (linked here).
Sportingintelligence has established beyond doubt that the meeting took place; that all the tweets and emails within the blog are genuine; and that Liverpool have seen evidence of the above.
Ayre met Cummins in person in Liverpool last week to hear Cummins’ side of the story. Ayre held a second meeting with Cummins in Liverpool today, when he handed over a letter of apology.
Ayre writes in the letter: “Based on everything I have heard and seen, including information provided by the parties involved in the matter, I acknowledge some of the elements you highlight were not appropriate …
“Clearly it is not appropriate for me to comment on how the club is managing this internally, and I trust you understand this.”
Liverpool have declined to comment on what disciplinary action, if any, Chang might now face.
Sources say that Liverpool’s chairman Tom Werner has already rebuked Chang, privately and verbally, for his meeting with Cummins and the way he handled its aftermath, but Chang has declined to comment on this – or provide any public account of his version of events.
Asked on 12 October whether Cummins’ blog was a faithful account of their meeting on 22 August, Chang emailed to say: ‘No, it’s total nonsense’.
He declined to respond to follow-up emails which asked for clarification about what actually happened.
It has subsequently been proved beyond doubt via CCTV footage, emails, texts and phone records that every part of Cummins’ story that it is possible to verify using that evidence has been verified.
What nobody will ever be able to verify is precisely what Chang said to Cummins during a 1 hour, 46-minute lunch on 22 August (right), but Cummins feels vindicated with the apology and acknowledgement that his concerns were genuine.
“As a Liverpool supporter, I fully appreciate that our great club has got a lot more serious issues to handle than what a spoof character was writing on Twitter,” Cummins has told Sportingintelligence this afternoon.
“It was never, ever my intention to distract from those issues, and I was shocked and surprised things unfolded as they have done, over a made-up character who was always clearly trivial.
“All I ever wanted was an apology and I got one in writing today.”
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