Gary Lineker 'helps' 2018 World Cup bid with Mail on Sunday column snub

Sports PR professionals have applauded Gary Lineker for quitting his Mail on Sunday column in protest at the publication of the Lord Triesman sting.

Former England international: Gary Lineker
Former England international: Gary Lineker

The Guardian sports writer David Conn revealed on his Inside Sport blog this afternoon that Lineker has quit his weekly column after the newspaper's publication of Lord Triesman's secretly recorded conversation on Sunday.

Following publication of the story, Triesman resigned as chairman of the FA and of its bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Former England international Lineker is an official ambassador of the bid. In his Guardian blog, Conn quoted Lineker: ‘The story itself, the circumstances surrounding it and the actions of the Mail on Sunday in publishing it have undermined the bid to bring the World Cup to England in 2018.

‘I wholeheartedly support the bid, because I believe that hosting the tournament would be brilliant for the country, and I am an official ambassador for it. I have therefore taken the view that I cannot continue as a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.'

Calacus PR director David Alexander said: ‘Newspapers are finding it increasingly difficult to get big scoops these days that have a major impact on sales and they're becoming ever more desperate. This was a classic sting that deservedly justifies the tag of "entrapment" because of the manner in which the story was obtained, recording a private, off-the-cuff conversation between "friends".

‘While it is true that everyone in public office needs to be incredibly careful of what they say, it's a sad state of affairs that such tactics were used to create a scandal and the MoS may well find sales decline rather than increase following this affair.'

He added: ‘Gary Lineker has long been the darling of English football. His resignation will send a message to the world that the MoS' behaviour is not acceptable even within these shores, which in itself can only help the bid.'

Sports agency Sine Qua Non International head of PR and comms Chris Hughes concurred with Alexander and added: 'Gary Lineker has made a bold statement by stepping down from his column. His actions speak on behalf of all English football fans and underline just what a PR own goal the Mail on Sunday has scored in publishing the story in the first place.

'By running what is effectively an "entrapment" story, the Mail cannot take any journalistic moral high ground and has left itself exposed to the backlash that has ensued. The story has rocked the foundations of England's 2018 World Cup bid just days after David Beckham formally presented the book to FIFA President Sepp Blatter. The timing of the story has caused maximum disruption but the bid committee has acted quickly and professionally to minimise the damage.'

However, Media House chief executive and former editor of the Scottish Sun Jack Irvine praised the MoS for covering the story.

'The MoS did a superb job and I take my hat off to them. It won't have a negative long-lasting effect on the paper's reputation. Instead, it has confirmed it is the dog's bollcoks in modern journalism and everybody who has a story to tell will beat a path to its door.'

The MoS ran a story on Sunday with comments made by Triesman during a private dinner with a friend Melissa Jacobs, who was recording it. She then sold her story to the Mail on Sunday, which is understood to have paid £75,000 for it, with the publicist Max Clifford representing Jacobs.


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