FIFA Ethics Committee member and decorated Australian football commentator, Les Murray, has withdrawn allegations made in his new book that Australian captain Lucas Neill had instructed his team mates to defy the orders of the then Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek immediately prior to the 2011 FIFA World Cup game against Germany in Durban last year.
“In the light of new information that has come to hand I accept that I was misled by my sources and that Lucas Neill did not call for the team to ignore the then national coach’s instructions,” Murray said in a statement.
“In my view Lucas Neill has been an outstanding captain of the Australian national football team and the third party report of the Australian game against Germany was never meant to be disparaging of Mr Neill’s character and sense of duty to the team.
“I take this opportunity to unreservedly apologise to Lucas Neill for any hurt or embarrassment concerning this matter.”
The Socceroos star said he had accepted Murray's public apology. "I am obviously still disappointed that my name has been wrongly attached to these allegations, but I accept the apology that has been issued by Les Murray," he said.
“After discussing the matter with Les, I have decided not to proceed with legal action. It was important for me to ensure that my reputation remain intact and make the public aware that I have never, nor would ever, behave in this manner towards a manager. Furthermore I’m happy that any further prints of the book will exclude this extract. I sincerely hope that anybody who reads the book in its current form understands that the allegations that were reported about me are completely false.”
Fellow published football book author and SBS World Game columnist, Jesse Fink, criticised Murray for insufficient facts-checking before publishing the controversial allegations against Neill.
"Murray and [his book publisher] Hardie Grant took the risk to present the rebellion-that-never-was story as fact, chose to go ahead on the say-so of their “sources” and they got burned. Badly. They can count their lucky stars they weren’t sent to the cleaners by Neill’s lawyers," he wrote on his new website.
"But the damage has already been done. To Neill’s image. To Hardie Grant’s brand. To Murray’s own reputation. And the sad part is it was all completely avoidable."