Just when the England football team were hoping to put behind them a series of off-field scandals that many believe contributed to their woeful performance at this year's World Cup, their star striker Wayne Rooney yesterday became the latest to face accusations about his private life. As a result, the team coach, Fabio Capello, may drop him from a Euro 2012 qualifying match tomorrow night.
And on a second successive weekend of allegations against Pakistani cricketers, the News of the World claimed that a fourth unnamed player was being investigated by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
It was in the same paper that an escort girl claimed she slept with Wayne Rooney while his wife, Coleen, was pregnant. News of the striker's alleged misdemeanours come at a time when three England footballers already have injunctions preventing the media from publishing details of their private lives.
Rooney's exposure, a classic red-top newspaper kiss-and-tell, is the fourth time a player has been publicly outed for "playing away" this year. Yesterday, Football Association (FA) officials tried to allay concerns that the striker would miss tomorrow's match against Switzerland in Berne, but Capello is privately concerned and will consider Rooney's state of mind before deciding whether to include him in the team.
Before the scandal broke it was expected that Rooney would be one of the players answering questions at a press conference yesterday. In the end he was conspicuous by his absence. But the officials stressed that the Manchester United star, who rediscovered some of his pre-World Cup form during England's 4-0 win over Bulgaria on Friday, would still fly out with the team today.
The striker has not scored in his past 11 international matches but was instrumental in setting up all four goals on Friday. At a press conference Rooney's team-mate James Milner tried to avoid questions on Rooney's state of mind, but according to reports, the player is "devastated" by the allegations.
"Things are always said in the paper about the England team," Milner said. "You have highs, you have lows, and it's down to us to make sure the only thing that matters is on the field, come together and make sure we get the result. It's important we go out and win football matches and control ourselves on the field and off the field as best we can."
Allegations of a betting scandal first surfaced last week when the paper secretly recorded prominent businessman Mazhar Majeed claiming that he could have players bowl no-balls at specific moments during matches. The revelations sparked one of the largest corruption investigations in cricket's history. Three Pakistani players – captain Salman Butt and fast-bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer – have been questioned by police, suspended from the team and charged by the ICC.
The paper claimed yesterday that money found in Butt's hotel room was part of the same £150,000 bundle given to Mr Majeed. It also published details of an undercover conversation with the Pakistani batsman Yasir Hameed claiming that he lost his place in the squad because he refused to take bribes from corrupt bookies.
"They were doing it in almost every match," the Pakistani opener told an undercover reporter. "Scotland Yard were after them for ages." But in an impromptu press conference on the step of the Pakistani High Commission in London last night, a spokesman for the batsman read out an affidavit in which Hameed denied knowing anything about colleagues being bribed. The batsman claimed that a reporter approached him using the name Abid Khan and said he was a representative of a global airline who wanted to talk about sponsorship deals.
"As I saw him as a friend and a potential agent I naïvely started answering his questions," the statement read. "[Abid Khan] asked me about the match fixing allegations....I only told him what I had already read in the newspapers."