Scandal of football’s internet chat rooms

What’s the difference between established sports journalism, and much of what appears on the internet? In the case of the latest Footballers’ Wives-style rumours spreading around website chatrooms, everything, according to OLIVER KAY

Next time you hear that the newspapers are intent on undermining England’s players in a World Cup year, cast your mind back to the scandal-mongering of the internet gossips and pub bores over the past week or so.

Certain newspapers do very well out of publishing unpleasant truths about the private lives of footballers, stating that they are doing so in the “public interest”, whatever that might be. What they do not do is make up or spread malicious gossip of the type presented as truth on the internet. If they did, they would be closed down.

You have probably heard the rumour. Shocking, isn’t it? Shocking that so many people are happy to lap up a series of malevolent lies about one of England’s leading footballers and to spread them like wildfire in the belief ” and, far worse, the hope ” that they must be true.

Not every footballer is a walking, talking egotist with regard only for himself, his libido and his bank balance. That breed represents a very small minority. The player at the centre of this rumour is renowned as a family man ” or at least he was until some loser with a vivid imagination and nothing better to do with his time decided to dream up a scenario, post it on a message board and wait for it to spread like wildfire across the internet.

The internet has become a dangerous place for those in the public eye, particularly those in football. Rumours ” Player A is gay, Player B is having an affair with Player C’s wife, Player D is a cocaine addict, Manager A was caught in bed with the chairman’s daughter ” are peddled gleefully and without restriction.

As for the player in question, he has no choice but to ignore the rumours and hope they go away. A World Cup is looming. England expects. And what a hypocrisy that is becoming.

Oliver Kay is the Football Correspondent of The Times. This is an abbreviated version of his latest online column. To read his article in full in his blog, click here

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