Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and the Press: How Far Is Too Far?

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Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and the Press: How Far Is Too Far?
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

On September 5th 2010 the story of Wayne Rooney sleeping with prostitute Jennifer Thompson surfaced in The News Of The World. Fair enough most people would think, he’s a public figure and he did something wrong making news worthy. But is the scrutiny that the papers are putting him, or any other player under really justified?

Some would argue that yes, it’s too much.

The tabloids' glare is so strong that it’s affecting his performances. Rooney hasn’t looked like the truly world class player that he can be for months, even suffering during England’s World Cup campaign during the summer.

Others would say though that it’s his own fault. If he didn’t want the attention then he shouldn’t have cheated on his wife.

It was revealed that Rooney had thought about applying for a super injunction, something that is a familiar phase from a footballer's mouth these days, but he was advised that any such application would most likely be rejected as he’d already spoken about his private life in the public before.

It’s not the first time Rooney had been involved legally with the tabloids. In 2006, he sued The Sun and The News Of The World for £100,000 in libel damages after they’d claimed he’d assaulted his then-girlfriend Colleen McLoughlin.

Of course Rooney isn’t the first footballer to be targeted by the press. Earlier this year Chelsea defender John Terry was a huge hate figure in this country thanks to his extra marital affair with an ex-teammate's girlfriend. Terry actually went ahead to attempt imposing a super injunction but was denied after he claimed he wanted to “Protect the John Terry brand.” Not much thought for his wife and kids then?

Rooney found himself in the headlines again last week when he claimed to be seeking a move away from Manchester United and that only proved to fan the flames of publicity surrounding the star. Freelance journalist Ross Davies said, “It makes a mockery of sports reportage when they (sports writers) turn the back pages into gossip columns, professionalism suddenly counts for nothing.”

Rooney isn’t the first player to receive such treatment though. David Beckham, Ashley Cole, Sven Goran Eriksson and Stan Collymore have all faced such intense scrutiny in recent years.

David Beckham in particular, who Ross Davies feels felt the need to escape the country because of it. “He had it all made at United, he had his falling out with Ferguson but I believe it was the media who drove him out.” Beckham himself was alleged to have had an extra marital affair in 2004 with his then-PA, Rebecca Loos.

“Look at how the Spanish media treated him compared with how ours did,” Davies said. “We were all over him and they didn’t care, as long as he performed on the pitch then what concern is it of theirs?”

Davies certainly has a point, why should anyone care as long as a player is doing his job?

Perhaps it’s a problem with society. Everyone can surely be guilty of gossiping every once in a while and in an increasingly technological age where media is king we have developed a morbid fascination in the lives of others.

Footballers haven’t seemed to realise this though. They’re aware that they are looked up to as role models by millions of children across the world and know that others will watch their private lives, yet when it comes to their love lives all sense and logic go out the window.

The players already mentioned aren’t the first to cheat by any means; the only difference is that there were no gossip columns or blogs back in the '50s, '60s and '70s.

Public infidelity isn’t just constricted to professional athletes of course but most players will agree that their private lives should be exactly that, private! And until they learn that maybe marriage isn’t for them, they can rest assured that they will find an innumerable amount of journalists waiting at the bottom of the trap door with pitch forks and torches, all too happy to carry them off to be burned at the stake.  

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