Bad news for brand image as Beckham denies affair

Yesterday the England captain found himself facing allegations of infidelity that could prove almost as unpopular with his sponsors as they are with his wife Victoria. By Paul Kelsoi.

David Beckham has become one of the world's best paid and most marketable sportsmen, thanks to a winning combination of talent and an apparently unimpeachable reputation as a devoted family man.

From Manchester to the Mekong delta, he is looked on as a star and role model, the good-looking good boy.

But yesterday the England captain found himself facing allegations of infidelity that could prove almost as unpopular with his sponsors as they are with his wife Victoria.

Beckham robustly denied newspaper claims that he had an affair with his former personal assistant, an allegation which if proved could dent his wholesome reputation and seems certain, regardless of the facts, to raise speculation about his private life to new levels.

The state of the Beckhams' marriage has been the subject of widespread discussion ever since the midfielder joined Real Madrid, but yesterday's News of the World carried the first outright allegations of infidelity since the £25m move last summer.

The allegation will disappoint those who value Beckham as a standard bearer of traditional virtues in football. The last six months have seen the game mired in tales of missed drugs tests, threatened players' strikes, allegations of rape and group sex, but Beckham's conduct has remained exemplary.

He earns around £100,000 a week at Real Madrid, whose merchandising operation has been enhanced by Beckham in the No 23 shirt, and many millions more as the face of numerous companies including Vodafone, Pepsi, Adidas and Police sunglasses.

Over five pages, however, the News of the World knocked a little gloss off that reputation.

The paper alleged that last year Beckham, 28, had a three-month relationship with Rebecca Loos, 26, a former employee of SFX, his then management company.

Sources close to Beckham said yesterday he was considering legal action or making a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

Whatever action the couple take, this time the story is unlikely to end quickly.

The Beckham camp suggested yesterday that the PR consultant Max Clifford, a man with an unsurpassed record in orchestrating tabloid exposes, was behind the story.

Mr Clifford said yesterday he had no official involvement, but it is understood that Ms Loos has been in touch with him for advice and that she has done a six-figure deal with the News of the World. She is understood to be prepared to back up yesterday's allegations.

In a statement Beckham, who spent yesterday morning training with Real Madrid, dismissed the allegations.

"During the past few months I have become accustomed to reading more and more ludicrous stories about my private life," he said. "What appeared this morning is just one further example.

"The simple truth is that I am very happily married and have a wonderful wife and two very special kids. There is nothing any third party can do to change this."

Victoria Beckham left Britain yesterday for what was believed to be a family holiday. A member of her family lodged a complaint of assault at Heathrow airport against a man thought to be a photographer. No one was badly hurt.


Paul Kelso, sports correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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