A married Premier League footballer who had affairs with two women will be exposed tonight after failing in an extraordinary last-ditch plea for his identity to remain secret.
His lawyers asked Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, not to remove the cloak of anonymity until he had time to ask the House of Lords to consider whether confidentiality laws apply to affairs outside marriage.
But Lord Woolf ruled yesterday that the footballer had now run out of time and the story ‘‘would inevitably emerge irrespective of the order which the court has made’’.
Lord Woolf said: ‘‘One of the main reasons why the court was prepared to grant a stay was because the case was put forward in the Court of Appeal that it was one where the claimant was anxious to protect his wife and child from the damaging consequences of the publicity.
‘‘But the claimant, it appears, has himself said something to his wife, apparently not the full story, as to what has happened.’’
The injunction preventing the footballer being named expires at midnight tonight.
High Court judge Mr Justice Jack ruled in September last year that the laws of confidentiality could apply to relationships outside marriage and ordered that the Sunday People newspaper should be barred from reporting the ‘‘kiss-and-tell stories’’ about the footballer, who is married with two children.
The newspaper successfully appealed against the order barring publication of the interviews with the footballer’s former lovers - one a lap dancer he met in a club and the other a nursery teacher who claims he used his wealth, fame and position to seduce her.
Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, and two other top judges, heard the appeal on March 11 and ruled that granting an injunction would be ‘‘an unjustified interference with the freedom of the press’’.
But the player was given three weeks’ grace to convince the Law Lords they should hear his case.
On Wednesday his lawyers unsuccessfully applied to the judges in a paper application for that injunction to be extended - and then, in an extraordinary last desperate bid, renewed their application yesterday before Lord Woolf, sitting in open court.
Lord Woolf said the Sunday People drew attention to the fact that the footballer had told his wife about what had happened, and he was reported to be negotiating with another newspaper with a view to selling his version of what had happened in what was perhaps ‘‘a spoiling tactic’’.
Lord Woolf added: ‘‘As we made clear in our judgment in court in the main appeal, this case has an unfortunate history of repeated applications relating to the same matter.
‘‘That matter has now been repeated in regard for a further stay.’’
But now the balance was firmly against an extended stay.
As well as the wife being told, there had also been very considerable publicity about the case and newspapers had even been making approaches to the claimant’s wife.
He said lawyers for the Sunday People were probably right when they said ‘‘this is a story which will now inevitably emerge irrespective of the order which the court has made, and it is one where the only party who will be disadvantaged if the stay is continued is the People newspaper’’.
The judge ordered the footballer to pay the costs of his failed application, estimated in the region of £4,000.