Norwich City soccer team demands teen's arrest for finding unannounced images on public website

A 17 year-old soccer fan in Britain faces criminal investigation after finding unannounced PR images at his favorite team's public website. When he shared his findings with other fans—thereby "leaking" Norwich City's forthcoming kit redesign—the football club called the police. From the BBC:

Chris has apologised to the club, which said it would protect its intellectual property at all times. The teenager, from Norwich, managed to obtain the pictures from the Canaries' website as it was being updated.He did not hack into the website, but was able to take the images from a section of the site that was being worked on. Norfolk Police said they had started a criminal investigation into how the pictures were leaked.

Chris Brown is being treated like a criminal—already made to grovel and admit his error on television—because Norwich's clueless, spiteful PR people think that you can post stuff to a public website without it being found, and that it's the police's job to punish those who look under the curtain. [BBC via Charlie Brooker]

Update: The BBC updated its story to say that the police have ended the investigation, with all parties having agreed the matter could be resolved through a 'face-to-face' meeting."

Update 2: In a statement, Norwich City has apologized for its "handling of the matter", and says the website was operated by the team's marketing company, not the team itself. But it still clearly believes that if there was 'malicious intent,' it would have been correct to arrest a kid for having "posted instructions as to how to access material" already published online.

What Chris Brown did is exemplary journalism, in a field where it rarely happens: thanks to his research skills and cleverness, he got the scoop on team news and broke it before anyone else. And all he had to do was post links to the team's own prematurely-published media.


  1. This story is nuts, obviously, but a 17-year-old is a “child”? I mean, maybe legally, but not in any common sense way. How about “teen”?

    1.  I think the real story is why is he being prosecuted (regardless of his age) for finding something on the internet? Crazy, like you said.

      1. The public internet no less. Okay not in an official part of the website but data that had been made live and he stumbled on it. That’t not hacking or wrong on the teen’s part. That is a dumb and clueless web admin on the football club’s part.

      2. The PR people being clueless morons isn’t surprising…I work in PR and there are a lot of clueless people in this world. But the cops actually bothering to investigate is absurd. This is like dropping a Euro on a public sidewalk and figuring out later who found it and spent, then charging them with theft. GIVE ME A BREAK.

      3.  > why is he being prosecuted […] for finding something on the internet?

        Because he stoled their innelectual properties!!!!!

    2. I guess it’s a fairer term. But–like one other 17-year old I can think of–he’s definitely a child, even if using that word might not be precise enough.

      1. It’s not all-or-nothing.

        Criminal responsibility is at age 10 in England.  It’s 8 in Scotland.The age of majority is 18 in England (although 16 in Scotland).  But I’m not sure what that means.  You might be called for jury service once you’re 18.At age 16, in England, you can leave home with your parents’ consent.  At age 17, you don’t need that.  At 18, you can own houses and land.

  2. Norwich’s PR person continued, “With this legal action, we hope to show that excitement and interest displayed by our fans will not go unpunished.”

    In related news, lawyers are eager to use this as a precedent in Peter Connolly v. Miranda Connolly for the soon-to-be-landmark “Don’t Look at Me, You’re Still Looking at Me” case.

  3. stupid webmaster
    stupid stupid PR
    stupid stupid stupid Police who should have laughed at them when they first called, what a waste of tax payer pounds

    even the kid is kind of stupid for apologizing.  he should have fought back and made the team look even more idiotic.

    nobody looks good in this one.

    1. The kid’s apology is understandable, but there’s no way the club doesn’t back down from this. Of course, if it’s out of their hands since they snitched to The Man, firings shall ensue.

    2. After clicking the link it is all a little bit less impressive.  The police didn’t quite laugh in their face but

      “In a statement Norfolk Police confirmed they had investigated an offence of unauthorised access to computer data, under the Computer Misuse Act, after being contacted by the football club.A police spokesman added: “It has subsequently been agreed by all parties that the matter can be resolved through a face-to-face meeting.””So in the end nothing happened at all.  Some over eager idiot at Norwich called the cops, the cops looked at it and sighed and said sort it out amongst yourselves (more or less).Maybe the article could be updated to indicate that the kid isn’t being prosecuted, charged or even told off.

    1. My guess is that he saved them then re-uploaded, hence copyright misappropriation. Not sure if that’s a criminal offense in the UK. Anyway, he’s not be prosecuted, just “under investigation.” 

      None of which, in any way, excuses the actions of the footie club or the police. Just showing that you needn’t have done anything wrong to be persecuted in an entirely legal manner.

    2. Bear in mind that what he’s done and what the police have been told may be two very different things.

      My guess is someone claimed hacking was involved, hence the police interest.

  4. Isn’t Stephen Fry a director of Norwich City?  I can’t imagine that he approves of this.

    1. He is. I was thinking of tweeting him about it, but several have beaten me to it.

      Say, does anyone else feel odd expressing the idea that they’ll tweet a public figure? Probably just means I’m old, but I always feel like I’m implying a closer relationship than I actually have (i.e. any relationship whatsoever).

      1. There may be some truth to that, but if there is a way to publicly address someone about a silly incident that could ruin the life of a young guy trying to spread the gospel of football (which is ultimately in the best interest of Norwich City and the Premier League), I see it as being the right thing to do.

  5. Soccer club learned from Apple, the company gets to decide when to release information, even if they released it “accidentally”.

  6. “With this legal action, we hope to show that excitement and interest displayed by our fans will not go unpunished.”
    How about the chairperson’s excitement, drunk in charge of the mic?

    1. I never get tired of watching that. And I don’t even really know who Delia Smith is (I know she’s some TV chef), so I don’t appreciate it as much as I could.

      Let’s be havin’ you!

  7. “… and that it’s the police’s job to punish those who look under the curtain.”

    Not even UNDER the curtain DIRECTLY AT the curtain.

    Basically this kid is a victim of timing. Had he circulated them when the team thought they were “ready” he’d be doing them a favor.

    Real PR people know better, these people are bush leaguers.

  8. Is the team trying to  claim a copyright infringement for the photo being distributed?  Or are they saying that the timing of the rollout for the new uniforms is protected under copyright?  This sure is some crappy reporting by the BBC.

    1. I’m going to take a wild ass guess that the PR team for this club provided an account of  this story that makes even less sense than how the BBC reported it. 

  9. “We forgot to close the doors so when some kid came through our exhibit he saw a display room that we didn’t close off, then committed the heinous crime of letting others know that they could get a peek through the door that should have been closed.”

    Note that at no time did the kid leave the allowed part of the exhibit path, the exhibit curator is the one who forgot to close the door so that the surprise was ruined. The kid is now being persecuted for letting others know where they too could take a peek.

    Or put another way, imagine if a company was putting up an exhibit at a trade fair with a covered surprise, but forgot to cover the left side and someone found out that you could actually see the whole thing without having to lift the cover.

  10. Boycott.  If no one shows up for a few home games, maybe Norwich’ll get the message that punishing a kid for *your* fuckup is a seriously dickish move.

    1.  To be fair, no one turning up for their home games hasn’t seemed to deter them for the last 110 years…

  11. Hopefully the IT department for the team has now learned why you have a development server and a production server, and you do not ever do development on a production server. 

    1. Hopefully the IT department for the team has now learned why you tell the marketing department to get stuffed when they call  up and ask you to rem0ve the password requirement from the staging directory “because John is having trouble viewing it from his Blackberry”.

    2. You want people who run a business to understand a simple business concept? Why don’t you just ask them to flap their arms and fly?

  12. Britain appears to moving towards criminalizing civil wrongs, and then going further by criminalizing any and all other activities that are left.
    The citizens of London will be defenseless when the Olympics come to town…

  13. Effing ridiculous. By posting it on their public site, ANYBODY could have found those images in a Google search. This kid’s being prosecuted because this football team doesn’t freaking understand how the Internet works.

  14. So has anyone started a defense fund for the kid? And Yeah, many 17 year olds are very much children when in the clutchs of attorneys and police. They are most often naive and innocent to the ways of vicious money hungry pricks like the team’s PR cretins. The stupes should hire the kid to do their web work.

  15. Paraphrasing an old joke:

    In a recent proceeding, a judge was forced to find a suitable home for a child whose parents were accused of beating him.  “Fine”, he decided, “place the child in the custody of the grandparents.”

    The child burst into tears and started wailing in despair.  The judge motioned the child’s lawyer to approach the bench and asked what the problem was.  “The grandparents are even worse than the parents.  They beat him too”, announced the lawyer.

    “Is there an uncle?”, asked the judge.  “Just released from prison, for beating his kids”, replied the laywer.  On it went.

    Finally, after a conference with all the lawyers, the judge awarded custody to the Norwich City football club, because everyone agrees that they will never beat anyone.

  16.  The guy did nothing wrong, if you put anything up on a public webpage and make it accessable to the public WITHOUT any security or encryption protecting it then it is fair game to be accessed by the public legaly.

    The person who called the police on the other hand should be arrested for falsely accusing someone of a crime the fact that they woun’t be is the real crime here.

  17. I wonder if the web crawlers of any of the major search engines found the forbidden images?  If so will they be prosecuted too?

  18. Man, this whole enterprise is stupid.  First of all, the idea that new uniforms are such a newsworthy event that there has to be some kind of lid kept on it kinda boggles my non-sports-fan mind.  I suppose there was to be some formal unveiling, and I understand the kit itself has its own website and everything, but still… what a weird non-event to keep such tight control over.

    What’s weirder is that somebody at Norwich City FC thought this was worth pursuing legal action over, and that there’d be little risk of negative blowback thereby.  McNally sez,

     “We are the guardians of the football club whilst we’re here and so we will protect our property.  And our property in the digital age involves our intellectual property, so we won’t allow anybody to come in and take it from us.”

    No, they’d rather harass a teenaged fan who showed other people pictures of the team which he’d discovered through completely legal means on the internet.  God damn that kid already for his unhealthy enthusiasm and devotion to the team, right?  They’d have treated him better if he, like I, didn’t give Shit One about their uniform change, or anything else that they do.  But for his interest, which cost them precisely £0, they call him up at 4:30 in the morning and bring in the cops.

    Kid should become an Ipswich fan or something.

  19. Hey guys, devil’s advocate here.. While I agree that the football team in question reacted in a profoundly stupid way, depending on the circumstances I think there is something to their claim.

    *If*, as the BBC article suggests, the kid “then posted the images on Twitter” there is potential violation of copyright. If the kid posted links to the images as they reside on the official site he did absolutely nothing wrong and did not infringe copyright whatsoever. If the kid upped the photo to somewhere off the official site (such as twitpic or imgur), that would be like taking an image from a photographer’s online portfolio and creating a new copy of it, thereby providing access to someone’s work without that person getting the traffic their site should rightfully receive.

    Meanwhile the douche quoted in the article that says “we will protect our property” & “we won’t allow anybody to come in and take it from us” is grossly idiotic because he DIDN’T protect their property and DID allow anybody to come in and take it – that’s how this whole thing started. The bottom line is: if you want to preserve your sneaky finds so the fools who didn’t close the shutters, can’t close the shutters then I’d suggest uploading them to a place like who are unlikely to play friendly with authorities, or fork out $5 a month for a VPN and put it wherever you damn well please – then tweet something like “look what my friend just showed me.. he sent me the link via an encripted IRC chatroom”. Plausible deniability is a beautiful thing.

    Also: Beebs I hate you for not closing the quotation marks of the douche. You are supposed to be professional journalists, right? I feel the same way about quotation marks as XKCD feels about parentheses.

      1. Really? I dont get it. Maybe it’s a disqus thing because URLs with ) seem to work OK for me. For your benefit I’ve taken the liberty of making a graphic to test the theory:

        Edit: ^see? Works OK, doesn’t it? Now I’m really confused.

        Edit 2: Ooooh, I get it… you mean when someone includes a URL in parentheses the right one screws up the link? That’s just poor syntax :)

        Hang on..

        1. About six months ago, it went from one out of every thousand links being screwed up that way to about one in twenty. It’s become some sort of bizarre fashion trend to put links in parentheses.

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