The Mail’s coverage of a particularly wild night out for England’s Rugby World Cup lads today- in which Chris Ashton wrestled dwarves and Mike Tindall took a ride on a motorboat (if you catch my drift)- should set alarm bells ringing in any media-savvy mind. Other than raising an eyebrow at Tindall’s quasi-infidelity, the paper stops short of making any definite moral pronouncements. However the language is telling: ‘questions were being raised’, ‘what will the wives and girlfriends make…?’, ‘it was clear that a lot of money had been spent’.
This is the distinctive sound of the, still mighty, British tabloid press flexing its muscles. Should the team head on to glory in New Zealand, this will all be brushed under the rug as a bit of harmless- probably even necessary- team bonding. But they’d damn well better: if they fail, the papers are now coiled, and they’ll unleash on this stuff with nothing short of relish. The article is a warning: ‘remember Ian Botham?’ says the Mail, ‘yeah, well look on my works, ye mighty, and watch your bloody step’.