Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs was a notable absentee for training at the club’s Carrington complex this morning after finding himself at the centre of a media storm.
Father-of-two Giggs, 37, was named yesterday as the married footballer involved in a controversial privacy case.
Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to name him as the Premier League player who took out an injunction over his relationship with 28-year-old reality TV star Imogen Thomas.
Giggs was not thought to have an injury but was not present for an open training session ahead of the club’s Champions League final on Saturday against Barcelona at Wembley.
While most of the first team were present, a few others were not.
Defender Rafael, who came off with a knock in Sunday’s victory over Blackpool in the final Barclays Premier League match of the season, did not take part in the first 10 minutes of open training.
Neither did Paul Scholes, goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and Dimitar Berbatov.
Giggs obtained an injunction preventing The Sun newspaper from revealing his identity last month but the first mainstream publication in the UK to name him was the Sunday Herald at the weekend.
His legal team indicated last week they would be launching legal proceedings against Twitter and “persons unknown” after the affair was widely discussed on the social network site.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Hemming said: “With about 75,000 people having named Ryan Giggs on Twitter, it is obviously impracticable to imprison them all.”
Commons Speaker John Bercow immediately took the MP to task over his comments, telling him that “occasions such as this are occasions for raising the issues of principle involved, not seeking to flout for whatever purpose”.
The row came to a head after the Sunday Herald newspaper in Scotland published a front page photograph of Giggs, showing his face with his eyes blacked out and the word “censored” written over the top. The newspaper argued that the ban on identifying Giggs was not applicable in Scotland.
Mr Hemming explained that he decided to name Giggs to prevent people being jailed for gossiping about him.
The Birmingham Yardley MP said in a statement: “When he sued Twitter, it was clear what he was doing. He was going after the ordinary people who have been gossiping about him on Twitter.
“To prosecute someone for contempt of court is quite a serious step. It comes with an up to two-year jail sentence.”
He said Giggs should be “held to account”, adding: “Before he sued Twitter, there was no public interest in naming him.
“However, when his lawyers decided to go on a ’search and destroy’ against the ordinary people who gossip on Twitter, he had taken a step that should not be done anonymously.”
The Sun newspaper challenged the order twice yesterday, saying it was time for courts to “do the right thing”.
But, rejecting the newspaper’s latest attempt to lift the anonymity order, Mr Justice Tugendhat said it was important to remember that the law of privacy was not concerned solely with secret information, but also with intrusion and harassment.
The developments in the row over secrecy in the courts will increase tensions between Parliament and the judiciary and comes after two of the most senior judges in England and Wales criticised politicians who use their positions deliberately to flout court orders last week.