LONDON — After two months it is about time this column came up with a world exclusive. Apologies for the delay but I hope it was worth waiting for.
Here it is — I have not had an affair with Ulrika Jonsson. Yes, I know that will come as a surprise but it’s true.
Sven-Goran Eriksson has, along with Stan Collymore and a few others including a “mystery” partner who has managed to keep his name a secret (I, along with just about all of what used to be Fleet Street, know who the former England international is) but not yours truly. This column is a Jonsson-free zone.
The Swedish television personality who has moved on to bigger and better things in every respect will not feature in my life story, so you’ll have to be content with (a sneak preview) Demi Moore, Julia Roberts, Sophia Loren, a girl in San Diego whose name I forget and Jackie (surname withheld for legal purposes) who will have a chapter all to herself.
Oh, just in case any nasty lawyers are reading this, I wish to make it clear (in case of mistaken identity) that I refer to the Demi Moore who works in a fish and chip shop in Birmingham, the Julia Roberts I went to school with and the Sophia Loren who made me the best expresso of my life in a coffee house in London’s West End.
The kiss-and-tell syndrome has become kiss-and-sell and word is Jonsson received £750,000 for the serialization of her autobiography where she revealed . . . well, very little that we didn’t already know about her and “Svennis” as she calls him. For reasons best known to herself, Jonsson refers to the England coach’s long-term girlfriend Nancy Dell’Olio simply as “the Italian” most of the time.
As interest in football grows any coach or player is, it seems, fair game for a nice little earner. English tabloids pay big money for tittle tattle so anyone who has ever scored a goal for Torquay must be on guard if a woman shows particular interest in him.
Younger girls know that if they can sleep with “a name” they can sell the story of how “the love rat broke my heart” — and cry all the way to the bank.
One Premiership striker was set up by two sisters. One chatted him up in a pub and as they left to get into his car her sister took secret photos which soon became public photos.
The participating sister even recorded proceedings, unknown to the player of course. The striker was married and while adultery can never be condoned, was it right his marriage should end in such a tacky way when the “affair” hit the headlines?
Were the sisters happy that for about £1,000 each they caused the split of a couple with two children? Which was the worse crime — adultery or entrapment?
Right or wrong, it is a growth industry. A girl has appeared on British television recently boasting that it is almost a part-time business for her to do this sort of thing and one wonders whether this says more about the girl or the industry that ensures her activities are profitable.
Eriksson was unwise, to say the least, to become over-friendly with a woman who has a special talent for keeping herself on the celebrity list for showbiz parties.
Cupid may have an arrow in one hand but there is often a checkbook in the other with a time-bomb attached to it as Eriksson and others have discovered. Love may mean nothing in tennis but in football it has its price.
Some even suggested Eriksson may have to resign for his amorous away trips with his fellow Swede even though it did not affect his job. If England is looking for a squeaky clean, whiter-than-white coach with no skeletons in his closet it is likely to be a long search.
Only Jonsson knows her true motives for sharing her thoughts with the rest of the world. Revenge? Profit? There cannot be too many other options but as Jonsson will earn more than £1 million from the book then money, as Abba sang — that’s the name of the game.
Younger, unmarried players are easier prey but what should they do? A life of celibacy is hardly natural for a rich, 21-year-old and while it would be wrong and disrespectful to tar all girls with the same brush, there is a higher level of awareness these days among big-name players when they meet the opposite sex.
Another development of the vast sums available from book serializations is that managers and players are withholding their views on certain topics at press conferences.
Managers, particularly, who have refused to comment on a controversial incident or situation at the time are suddenly only too happy to spill the beans in a book.
This could lead to press conferences of numbing tedium in the future with managers asking themselves: “If I save what I really think about that sending-off it could be worth a few quid later.”
And they’d be right. The newspapers which pay vast sums for serializations could by extension be guilty of making the day-to-day manager quotes they carry dull and routine.
The juggernaut that is the English media will deter leading coaches from working in the Premiership or for the Football Association because their private life is anything but private.
Sir Alex Ferguson was cleared by the South African police earlier this week after accusations by Nadia Abrahams of assault during a recent visit to Cape Town.
Abrahams, whose boyfriend Brian Ebden has a business that is debt-ridden, was so upset by what the Manchester United manager had allegedly done she was left with no alternative than to sell her story to an English paper for £50,000.
It is ironic that Ferguson, whose contempt of the domestic written media is such that he refuses to attend post-match Premiership press conferences, should almost be an innocent victim of an industry he appears to loathe but from which he earns a vast sum for “exclusive” columns.
And so we wait for the next super scoop where a family can be split up and a job lost because of an indiscretion or bad judgment by a man who could not resist the temptation.
One answer, of course, is not to commit the crime.
Another would be for newspapers to turn their backs on serializations, refusing to finance someone with questionable motives.
Neither is likely to happen so brace yourself for more of the same in the coming months.