Daily Star apologises to Ashley Cole over “gay” stories

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PinkNews.co.uk Exclusive

Ashley Cole is due to receive an apology from The Daily Star after the tabloid printed stories relating to the News of the World “gay orgy” articles which eventually led to the identification of the footballer.

The Arsenal and England star objected to articles from three separate editions of the paper, one which retold the News of the World story, a picture of Mr Cole looking feminine with a caption by his phone, an image from websites claiming to be of the footballers involved, and a falsely attributed headline from the star saying, “I’m no rear gunner.”

The Daily Star has since retracted the articles and an apology will appear in the paper wishing Mr Cole luck in recovery from injury, in his engagement and for this summer’s World Cup.

Mr Cole is currently pursuing legal action against News Group Newspapers for harassment, libel and breach of privacy.

Although the footballer, who is engaged to Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy, was not directly named in any of the stories, the 25 year old’s lawyers complained that the photograph and accompanying text in the articles suggested he was one of the players involved They said their client denied involvement in a sexual relationship with another Premiership footballer or with any other man.

Last month the News of the World claimed that two unnamed footballers were caught on camera in an orgy with a well known music industry figure. The newspaper claims that one player engaged in sexual acts using a mobile phone as a sex toy.

The tabloid published alleged pictures of two of the figures involved but hid their faces. The story was followed by internet rumours and speculations on blogs and websites about the identity of the stars. PinkNews.co.uk was the first accredited publication to print what it believed to be the unedited version of the images from the paper.

His lawyer, Graham Shear, said in a statement: “These proceedings were commenced because these newspapers published false and offensive articles designed to tell readers that Ashley had behaved in what the News of the World described as a ‘perverted’ way with other professional footballers.”

“The newspapers knew there was no basis to name Ashley but arranged the articles and pictures in such a way that readers would identify him.”

“There is no truth whatever in these allegations. Ashley Cole will not tolerate this kind of cowardly journalism or let it go unchallenged.”

“It is disgraceful that he should be faced with this kind of unpleasant insinuation and innuendo at a time when he is trying to focus on this summer’s World Cup and his forthcoming wedding.”

Mr Shear told PinkNews.co.uk that the issue with the Daily Star was the mocking tone used in the articles and false attribution, he said: “We are pleased to see an apology from the Daily Star.”

Legal experts pointed out that by offering an apology, Richard Desmond’s Daily Star is unlikely to face a similar lawsuit.

Meanwhile PinkNews.co.uk may face legal action from the News of the World. Notification was received from solicitors acting for the paper stating that they reserve the right to commence third party proceedings against the site in relation to the libel claims of Mr Cole.

The proceedings refer to an article titled, “Internet rumours “name” bisexual football star” in which the website discussed the News of the World story, “Gay as you go” and rumours circulating across the internet speculating on the identity of the individuals concerned.

Mr Cohen defended the story, he said: “PinkNews.co.uk behaved in a responsible way in its handling of the Ashley Cole story. At no point did we claim that Mr Cole was gay.”

“All that PinkNews.co.uk did was to publish what it believed (and subsequently emerged) to be the original version of a photograph edited by the News of the World.”

He added: “News Group have merely informed us of their rights to bring proceedings, as yet, no proceedings have been issued.”