Dean Austin considering legal action after private WhatsApp messages published

Estimated read time 3 min read

Coventry City head of recruitment Dean Austin is considering legal action after his private WhatsApp messages were published on social media.

Austin, watching his club’s next opponents Watford draw 1-1 with Swansea City at Vicarage Road, was in communication with manager Mark Robins and football agent Rob Segal.

Three separate photos were taken of Austin’s phone by a Watford fan sat a few rows behind him. They were then published on X, formerly Twitter, at the end of the game. The Athletic understands both Austin and Segal are deeply concerned by the incident and believe their privacy has been breached.

UK law outlines that individuals have the right to privacy and protection of their personal data. Sharing messages without consent could potentially breach their privacy rights and data protection principles.

The messages — which The Athletic has chosen not to publish — discussed the way Watford were performing in the match on Wednesday night. The first appeared to highlight that Robins was also watching the game remotely as he was also commenting on the ongoing action. The exchange between the pair was critical of certain aspects of Watford’s performance and also discussed the future of their under-pressure manager Valerien Ismael. Austin was sat in the Sir Elton John Stand in an area designated for scouts.

The home side trailed 1-0 after an embarrassing own goal, which was the result of a mix-up between goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann and right-back Ryan Andrews, who ended up heading into an empty net. Watford equalised in the second half via defender Ryan Porteous.

Watford’s equaliser ensured they did not slip to another defeat (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Watford are 13th, seven points off the relegation places, and have won only one of their past 11 games, a run including six defeats. Watford go into the game with Coventry having failed to win in eight home league matches, since a 3-2 victory over Norwich on November 28. Coventry, in contrast, have won four of their past six Championship games and are eighth, just two points off the play-off places.

The incident puts Austin in an uncomfortable position as he used to work at Watford as assistant to both Slavisa Jokanovic — with whom he won promotion to the Premier League in 2014-15 — and Quique Sanchez Flores the following season. He also had a second spell at the club with the Spaniard in 2019. Austin is also a former Crystal Palace team-mate of Ismael, having played together in 1998.

Ismael spoke after the game about the team’s poor form. “I was a player and I was in a situation like that, with a very good club and very good players and we had exactly the same picture,” he said.

“It’s tough, it’s really tough. When you’re winning games you’re not thinking, you enjoy life. When you start to lose games, you think too much. In a bad situation, you start to blame each other and it goes completely in the wrong direction. It’s a challenge for me to find the solution.”

(Top photo: Pete Norton/Getty Images)