Beckham wins the Battle of the Y-fronts as press are warned off footballers' wives

England 1, Paparazzi 0: agency to pay substantial damages over intrusive photo of captain as FA moves to protect stars and partners from tabloids

David Beckham scored a significant victory over media intrusion yesterday when a paparazzi picture agency agreed to pay substantial damages over a long-lens picture of the England captain in his underpants.

David Beckham scored a significant victory over media intrusion yesterday when a paparazzi picture agency agreed to pay substantial damages over a long-lens picture of the England captain in his underpants.

Beckham was outraged when the shot of him on his hotel room balcony in Lisbon appeared in the Sun and the Daily Star newspapers on Thursday. Lawyers for the Football Association argued the image breached strict Portuguese privacy laws and Press Complaints Commission guidelines, and it appears the FA is heading for a convincing victory on the issue.

The agency, Big Pictures, based in north London with offices in the US and Australia, has agreed to pay damages to a charity of Beckham's choice plus the FA's legal costs. It has also deleted the images from all of its files and ordered the photographer to do likewise.

The FA has also written to the editors of the Sun and the Daily Star demanding similar damages and a printed apology. On Friday the FA excluded photographers from both papers from its pooled photo shoot with Beckham. Instead the Sun carried a picture of the England captain in yesterday's paper taken during the World Cup in 2002, wearing a now outdated kit.

Lawyers from the FA have also written to the editors of two weekly celebrity-driven magazines, Heat and Closer, and it now seems certain that they will have to ditch plans to run the pictures in their next editions.

An FA spokesman said yesterday: "We are delighted that Big Pictures have admitted the error of their ways - distributing pictures taken illegally according to Portuguese law - and hope that this serves as a deterrent for any photographer who attempts to break the privacy of the England football team during their stay in Portugal.''

The Sports minister Richard Caborn echoed this, condemning the press's role in obtaining and publishing the photographs as "despicable" and "intrusive", and calling on them to "lay off".

The offending picture was taken on Tuesday from a road up to 400 metres down a hill from England's hotel, the Solplay in Lisbon. With security around the camp so tight the photographer shot the image using a 600mm lens with a "doubler'' to increase magnification. The FA argued that paragraph 3 of the PCC guidelines says pictures should not be taken if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. It was under these rules that The People had to pay damages for publishing pictures of the DJ Sara Cox on holiday.

The newly ebullient FA has also warned reporters and photographers not to intrude on the privacy of players' wives and girlfriends, who arrived on Friday. This follows a story in the Daily Mail which claimed - and possibly tried to foment - "ill-feeling" among the wives towards Victoria Beckham.

Both the long-lens Beckham picture and the inevitable "footballers' wives" story are testimony to the formidable security surrounding the players. Gone are the days when tabloid news reporters - known variously as "the Beastie Boys" or "the Rotters" to sports writing colleagues - could penetrate the players' sanctum and offer bribes to maids or barmen in the hope of some tittle-tattle. A 500m exclusion zone now surrounds the England hotel, and beyond that a further 500m area is patrolled by detectives.

But despite the obstacles, legal and physical, between the tabloids and their celebrity quarry, David Beckham has increasingly strained relations with some parts of the media. He tried to ban reporters from News International and Sky Television from a press conference during a pre-tournament training camp in Sardinia in retaliation for stories they ran about his alleged affair with his former PR Rebecca Loos. He relented when the media told him: "One out, all out.'' He has also recently rounded on the Daily Mail which he claimed unfairly cast aspersions on his role as a family man.

The tabloids are not taking these setbacks well. One source said: "He's just becoming over-precious and is risking a real backlash. He is letting the cult of his brand take precedence over his role as captain. He should be an intermediary between the team and the press and public but he has been acting like a prima donna, letting disputes over his private life dictate who is allowed to attend press conferences." The source added: "The situation is now that if he slips up at all during this competition, the tabloids will have no regrets about savaging him."

Until that happens, all news reporters, tabloid or otherwise, are having to concentrate on covering the movements, alcohol consumption and demeanour of the thousands of England fans in Lisbon and the Algarve. Even the BBC has joined in - setting up camp on one floor of a hotel overlooking the central Rossio Square, where hundreds of fans drinking litre glasses of lager have been congregating.

Time will tell.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'