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Friday, October 22, 2010 

The real shame of England.

Forgive me for not plunging straight back into wholesale blogging, which I'll leave to Monday, as I'm sure you're spending reviewed out in any case (these two posts summarise it fairly succinctly). Instead here's something I and I suspect almost everyone else missed from before I went away (it was on Have I Got News for You last night, incidentally):

Two Sunday newspapers have quietly apologised to a woman who was the subject of a tabloid feeding frenzy earlier this year.

Vanessa Perroncel was alleged in several papers to have had an affair with the Chelsea and England footballer John Terry. All sorts of personal and private information about Perroncel was published at the time, much it (sic) false.

The News of the World's apology has since disappeared behind their hastily established paywall, although the apologies by the Mail on Sunday and the Screws were almost identical:

On January 31 and afterwards we published some personal information about Vanessa Perroncel in articles concerning an alleged affair with the footballer John Terry.

Miss Perroncel has since informed us that she would have preferred her personal information to remain private and it was untrue in any case. We apologise to Miss Perroncel for any distress caused.

As Roy Greenslade points out, these apologies are absolutely remarkable. They suggest, although it's difficult to be certain, that almost every single thing printed about the apparently non-existent affair between Perroncel and Terry was wrong. It suggests that Terry was potentially in the right in seeking the super-injunction in the first place, both to stop a story which was untrue, and even if not his prime motive, to protect Perroncel from having every single aspect of her life splashed across the tabloid press, something which happened regardless. By the same token, there was no reason for Terry to be stripped of the England captaincy, and also no reason for Wayne Bridge to decline to be a part of the England team which went to South Africa.

Many will reason that's there no smoke without fire. Where did the story come from in the first place? Pure rumour based around the fact that Perroncel and Terry had been seen together, how they were "just friends" as Perroncel herself has put it? It wasn't clear in the first place, and clearly doesn't seem likely to be explained now. Was Wayne Bridge convinced of Terry's betrayal purely by the press? Again, we don't seem to know.

Something that is certain and is just as remarkable has been Perroncel's dignity and quiet determination ever since the super-injunction failed and the story broke. She has maintained from the very beginning that there was no truth to the allegations, despite doubtless having numerous cheques waved under her nose. She could have quite easily sold a completely spurious story for an obscene amount of money, as countless others would have done in her situation, or alternatively have accepted money from Terry to keep her silence, as was also allegedly offered in what could now be equally inaccurate accounts. She could also have sued for libel, and considering the more outlandish claims made, including that she had slept with almost half of the Chelsea team, it seems likely it could have been more than easily proved such allegations were lies. Instead she simply pursued apologies from the newspapers held most responsible, something that she achieved, with the predictable outcome that those apologies were buried respectively back on page 18. At the time the Daily Mail thanked Fabio Capello for getting rid of the captain who had "shamed" England; it has never been more clear just what it is that truly shames England.

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