Football fans complain to PCC over tabloid photos showing Foé on stretcher

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The Independent Online

Front-page pictures of the moment Marc-Vivien Foé was carried from the pitch on a stretcher have provoked an angry response from fans.

The Press Complaints Commission has received many telephone calls and e-mails complaining at newspaper coverage of the death of the former Manchester City and West Ham footballer.

The 28-year-old collapsed and died of a heart attack in front of thousands of fans and millions of television viewers during a Confederations Cup match in France. The print media's treatment of the death is what has provoked outrage. In particular, the front pages of The Sun and Daily Mirror - which show Foé lying on the pitch and being taken away by medics - have angered many football supporters.

The press watchdog is unable to investigate third-party complaints. It is, though, keen to be proactive after the recent parliamentary inquiry into its effectiveness, and said yesterday it was attempting to contact Foé's family via his agent to make sure they knew how to make a complaint. "We're not telling them to make a complaint but letting them know how they can if they want to do so," said a PCC spokesman.

Any case is likely to be brought under clause five of the PCC's code of practice, which prohibits intrusion into grief or shock. It demands "sympathy and discretion" in such situations, and stipulates that publication should be handled "sensitively". In the Culture and Media Select Committee's recent inquiry into intrusion, the PCC was criticised for not doing enough to prevent tabloid newspapers intruding into the private grief of the families of servicemen killed or injured in Iraq.

The PCC spokesman said his organisation had pursued a policy of making itself available to people at difficult times since at least 1998, making changes to the code after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. It has a 24-hour hotline that people can call if they are concerned about intrusion by the press.