Times chief football correspondent Oliver Kay has emphatically denied claims aired on Yahoo Eurosport that today’s Times back page lead is a spoof story.
The story ‘Sheikhs shake world game’ suggests that Qatar wants to offer “enormous financial inducements” for the world’s leading football clubs to take part in a 24-team tournament every two years.
Yahoo reports that the Kay story follows a piece on the same subject which apparently appeared on the French satirical website La Cahiers du Football on 10 March.
It reports the author of the French article saying: “I swear it’s come entirely out of my imagination. I don’t have a source.”
Kay defended his story today in a live webchat with readers of Times Online.
1) Cahiers du Football was absolutely not the source of my story — 100 per cent, 1,000 per cent, 175 million per cent. I have copious amounts of handwritten notes, as well as e-mails and texts, that would confirm this.2) I have no idea what CdF's modus operandi is. They claim to have made their story up — right down to the "Dream Football League" logo that appeared on their story, which has also been on e-mails that have been sent to me by the prime source of my story3) I'm absolutely not the type of journalist to run a story of this magnitude — which would invite scepticism in any case, never mind when there are claims being made by a French website that they made it up — on the basis of a single source. And particularly not a source that, by its own admission, is low on credibility. If anything, I'm risk-averse as a journalist. If I was the type to take punts based on what one person had told me, I would have run the Harry Redknapp sacking story on the day of England-Belgium last June (about ten days before it could actually get stood up) and the Kenny Dalglish sacking story two days before it happened. Would I really risk my reputation on something like this? No.4) I've spoken to the original source again twice today and to several other important figures who are keen to add their input. Still nothing on the record, which is a frustration. But there is more where this came from, which should tell you that, no, this didn't come from some "satirical" French website.
Reader GW asked:
Is it possible that some quite powerful people operating at PSG have had a hand in Cahiers du foot's response subsequently? As they do not want to fall foul of what I assume is the most powerful club in France currently and are a club who I imagine at some level know much more about this than your Manchester United and Arsenal Bayern etc.
I've no idea. I don't know who is behind Cahiers du Foot or how they work. Nor do I know what they've said since our brief Twitter exchange a couple of hours ago, though I will be sure to check when I finish this. It would seem that, for them, as a self-styled satire site, the "we tricked The Times" narrative, while inaccurate, is ideal.
Are you confident that the source wasn't getting his information from Cahiers Du foot's story? The fact he used the same image…
Not only am I confident. I am certain. This contact has been the source of excellent information — particularly on PSG/Qatar, particularly in recent weeks.
Why would a French website run a 'satirical' story about the same thing with the same picture with much the same details two days before you ran it as an exclusive?
Was it two days? As I said earlier, I've no idea what their modus operandi is. If they seriously think that I took the story from their site, they have no idea of mine.