The image of the modern footballer was dealt a further blow yesterday when the Chelsea star John Terry and the Wimbledon defender Desmond Byrne were charged with affray and assault after a drunken altercation in a London club.
Mr Terry, 21, and Mr Byrne, 20, were arrested last night after allegedly being involved in an attack on a male receptionist at the Wellington private members' club in Knightsbridge, central London.
Mr Terry, an England under-21 defender, and Mr Byrne, a former Republic of Ireland under-18 captain sacked by Stockport County after an alleged nightclub fracas, were among a group toasting the birth of the baby of the Chelsea player Jody Morris when they were ejected for drunken and abusive behaviour.
Shortly before 1am yesterday they allegedly re-entered the premises and were involved in a fight that left the reception worker, 28, with a half-inch deep facial gash treated at the scene by an ambulance crew.
Mr Terry was taken to Belgravia police station after he was arrested on suspicion of assault and being drunk and disorderly. A police spokesman said: "There was an altercation allegedly involving members of staff and two patrons ... Two men were arrested."
Football pundits had considered Mr Terry a near certainty for full international honours provided he avoided off-the-pitch excesses. He was among four Chelsea players fined two weeks' wages, estimated at a total of £100,000, for offensive behaviour towards American tourists during a drinking binge the day after 11 September.
In scenes described by Chelsea's managing director, Colin Hutchinson, as "totally out of order", Mr Terry, along with Frank Lampard, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Mr Morris, were accused of stripping, vomiting and laughing in front of guests at the Posthouse hotel near Heathrow airport.
More recently, events in football's top flight have been overshadowed by transgressions of millionaire stars. A month ago the Leeds players Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer were cleared of assaulting an Asian student, but both were fined by their club for drunken behaviour.
Mr Terry missed yesterday's training session at Chelsea's training ground near Heathrow. Club officials were on standby to drive the influential player to today's FA Cup tie at Norwich.
Mr Terry's chances of representing England in the World Cup could be affected by the allegations.