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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 12:16 GMT
Footballer Cole sues newspapers
Ashley Cole
Cole has suffered an injury nightmare
Arsenal and England full-back Ashley Cole is suing two national newspapers for libel amid claims about the sexuality of two unnamed footballers.

Internet rumours spread after the News Of The World and the Sun printed allegations about two top players.

Cole's lawyer has issued writs against the papers, claiming "libel, harassment and breach of privacy".

Solicitor Graham Shear said it was "disgraceful" that the England star should face "insinuation and innuendo".

The articles contained broad hints as to the footballers' identity and have generated much discussion in chatrooms.

Ashley Cole will not tolerate this kind of cowardly journalism or let it go unchallenged
Graham Shear
Cole's lawyer

In a statement, Mr Shear said: "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."

Chatroom gossip

The case is being seen as a landmark case by many lawyers as it would test how the libel law deals with allegations made against unnamed individuals.

Libel lawyer Caroline Kean, from media firm Wiggin, said the case was also unusual as it would partly deal with speculation on chatrooms.

Any hearing would examine "whether the newspaper should have been prepared that its story would be followed by tittle tattle on internet chatrooms and whether it is responsible for it".

Ms Kean continued: "It has always been the law that if you show you have been identified you don't have to have been named."

But she added: "It is an odd thing to do in terms of your own profile. A libel case potentially opens up all manner of details about your private life and can open you up to much greater publicity."

Injury nightmare

The England defender has had a difficult time on and off the pitch over the last year.

He is currently out for three weeks after spraining his ankle in his comeback match in the Arsenal reserves.

With the World Cup drawing near, Cole has played just over one hour of competitive football since October after struggling with a fractured right foot and thigh injuries.

And the star failed in an appeal last month to the Court of Arbitration in sport against a 75,000 Premier League fine for discussing a possible move to Chelsea while under contract.

The player has been engaged to Girls Aloud star Cheryl Tweedy since June last year.




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