The solicitors for footballer Ashley Cole in his libel case against the News of the World and the Sun are taking to the internet to decipher how articles relating to a “gay orgy” have affected the public perception of the Arsenal and England star.
Answers to the questions will be used as evidence in a civil court case against the papers involved, and some of the respondents may be called as witnesses.
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.
Following the publication of obscured photographs in the News of the World, PinkNews.co.uk published the original showing the footballer and the radio DJ Masterstepz. Legal experts believe that the publication of the photographs on PinkNews.co.uk and subsequently other internet sites allowed Mr Cole to proceed with his case.
Mr Cole’s solicitor, 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.”
The “Ashley Cole Libel Survey” advertisements will feature prominently on the PinkNews.co.uk website for a week, enabling the law firm Teacher Stern Selby to analyse the likely impact of the “gay” rumours had on their client.
PinkNews.co.uk estimate that at least 900 blogs have linked to or posted the photograph showing Mr Cole and the DJ Masterstepz together at a party.
You can contribute to the research by clicking here