Premiership player accused of rape

The footballer, who has not been named, is believed to be a high-profile multi-millionaire who plays for a leading English club and also for his country. The Premier League's image is already at a low ebb after criticism of dull play and evidence of dwindling crowds.

The player and an unidentified friend, who is not thought to be a footballer, are said to have taken it in turns to rape two women in a £1,000-a-night penthouse suite at a central London hotel early on Sunday.

The women allegedly met the footballer and his friend at anightclub. The complaint is understood to have been made at West End Central police station. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "We can confirm police are investigating allegations of serious sexual assault at a location in central London in the early hours of Sunday."

According to reports yesterday, the footballer, who had played for his team earlier in the day, has not yet been formally told about the allegations. Police are said to have taken statements from the women.

Detectives from Operation Sapphire, Scotland Yard's specialist sexual assault unit, have also visited the nightclub where the women said they met the men to interview staff and examine CCTV footage. The penthouse at the hotel is also said to have been examined for forensic evidence and the floor was temporarily cleared of guests.