What's the point of the tabloid obsession with footballers' private lives? Does anyone care? Is anyone surprised?
This is The Sun's front page on Saturday. It claims that Arsenal's manager, Arsene Wenger, had had an affair with a French singer [Not on the paper's website].
The following day, the News of the World alleged that two Newcastle United players had been partying with women while celebrating a victory.
The headline, Toon stars' cocaine and sex orgy [behind paywall], was somewhat misleading because the article specifically states that the players did not touch the drug.
To quote from the article:
"Neither player is believed to have snorted the drug - but our revelations today take football to new depths of shame."New depths of shame? Really. By the standards of what we have read over the past couple of years, the depths seem rather shallow.
Anyway, back to the exposures. Today's Sun front page managed to link one of the Newcastle players to Wayne Rooney by alleging that he "faced new shame" (how deep, one wonders?) by receiving "sexy texts" from the "hooker" alleged to have slept with Rooney.
Both the Wenger and Newcastle allegations appeared elsewhere. There is a full page about the Wenger allegations in today's Daily Mail [but not online]. The story is also covered in the Daily Express, here, the Daily Star, here, and in the Daily Mirror [not online].
But what is the point? Clearly, there is no genuine public interest in these essentially private matters.
But the papers will inevitably defend their stories on the ground that they show that so-called public role models are not squeaky clean after all.
As I never tire of saying, the moment papers expose "role models" as fallible they achieve the exact opposite of what they claim. By revealing their bad behaviour, they are more likely to encourage young admirers to emulate their heroes rather than turn their backs on them.
Then there's that matter of popular papers responding to their readers' desires by publishing stories that are "interesting to the public." As I hinted at the start, I suspect this no longer holds true (and falling sales hardly support that view).
Perhaps editors should get acquainted with the law of diminishing returns. Repeating the same sort of story endlessly decreases its value.
Or, to put it in tabloid-speak, there must be limits to the depths of shame.