The Arsenal and England left-back, Ashley Cole, is planning a landmark court action over claims that two anonymous top flight footballers were involved in a “gay sex orgy”, despite not being named in connection with the tabloid story.
If it goes to court, the case could have implications for the tabloid press and their Faustian pact with the celebrity world.
Cole has decided to sue for harassment, breach of privacy and libel after rumours over his sexuality spread like wildfire on the internet, fuelled by a series of articles in the News of the World and the Sun that did not name him but contained broad hints at his identity.
The original story, heavily trailed by TV advertisements the previous night, appeared in the News of the World on February 12. Headlined “Gay as you go”, it claimed that “two bisexual stars made some very dirty phone calls – using a mobile as a gay sex toy”. It also claimed that a reporter had seen a recording of the alleged incident. However, the news paper did not claim to have a copy of the recording. It returned to the allegations the next week.
The tongue-in-cheek treatment continued in the News International stablemate the Sun, which later alluded to the story in the caption on a paparazzi snap of the footballer out on the town with his pop star fiancee, Cheryl Tweedy, prompting a letter to newspaper editors by Cole’s solicitors. At no stage did either newspaper name the footballer or explicitly use his picture, making the libel claim unusual. But legal sources believed he could have a strong case none the less.
The good news for Gawker Media is that however this case turns out, the precedent should have no bearing on any actions Peyton Manning might decide to take in the future.
With Cole sitting out, Arsenal beat Fulham, 4-0 earlier today at Craven Cottage. Thierry Henry scored twice and a copy editor from the Sun scrambled to delete all references to cottaging on the advice of lawyers.
Liverpool and Charlton are about 5 minutes away from finishing in a scoreless draw, the former missing out on a chance to claim 2nd place in the Premiership. Earlier today, the Guardian’s Barney Ronay posed the terrifying question, “What Would A Team Of 11 Peter Crouches Be Like?”.
Very polite of course. And quite funny-looking too. Particularly in the last moments of a World Cup quarter-final, when the big lads from the back stream forward to join the big lads up front, hoping to get on the end of a cross from the big lads out wide – leaving just a couple of big lads covering the big lad in goal.
Science has come a long way, but thankfully, not quite that far.
(UPDATE : An 89th minute strike by Robbie Fowler was waved off when the former Anfield icon was ruled offside)