The Last Word: Personal must not overshadow professional

Claims that sports stars won't retain the respect of their peers due to media attention are most likely to be premature.

For most married couples, revelations that the husband visited a brothel disguised as a “Thai massage parlor” on more than one occasion over the last few months would be cause for some concern, especially if the details were published in many of the gossip-hungry British newspapers.
But Mr and Mrs Avram Grant are, quite clearly, not like most married couples.
Rumors of the Portsmouth manager’s activities had been flying around for weeks since The Sun ran a story claiming a Premier League boss had visited such an establishment in the town of Horton Heath close to Southampton.
But it wasn’t until Thursday that a court ruling allowed the publication of the protagonist’s name.
Only a few hours after the news of Avram’s actions were published in the UK, Grant’s wife Tzufit, a local celebrity in her own right, gave her views on the sorry scandal.
Somehow, she didn’t seem to be at all fazed, telling reporters she wasn’t angry and understands that her husband needs regular massages due to the stress he is under as Portsmouth boss.
As yet, there is no conclusive proof that those working in the now-closed down parlor provided Grant with any services other than relaxing massages, said Tzufit, who still lives in Israel. And even if they were sex workers it is a private matter, she added.
Brushing over Mrs Grant’s apparent naiveté about the way the world’s oldest profession is run in England these days, her attitude towards the media spotlight on her husband’s private life, and expectations that it should be linked to his professional life, is spot on.
When the story first broke last month there were already claims that the manager would likely be forced to step down, whoever he is.
However it was reported on Thursday afternoon that Portsmouth has no intention of taking any action or making any official comment about the Grant scandal, which could see him questioned by police over his visit to the massage parlor.
Running a brothel is illegal under UK law, but visiting a prostitute is not.
Even if our Avram did go and break the law, he is a private individual and, unless it has a detrimental effect on his ability to do his job, his personal conduct should not influence his bosses.
The court ruling which paved the way for the Grant story to be published came in the wake of the John Terry scandal which has been covered obsessively by the UK press over the last week.
Terry has been reported to have had an affair with the ex-girlfriend of former Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge, leading to calls for him to stripped of the prestigious England captaincy ahead of this summer’s World Cup finals.
While Terry’s actions are not to be applauded, it is his wife he should have to answer to, not his manager. Terry is a leader on the pitch and his teammates should have no problem focusing on the job in hand and not their captain’s private life when they take to the field for their opening game against the USA on June 12.
In the south of England itself, the confusing financial situation at Portsmouth may well have overshadowed Grant’s scandalous situation but in any case the club has taken the right approach.
The media has every right to focus its attention on the private lives of whichever individuals it chooses to, especially if they are in the public eye.
But claims that sports stars will not be able to retain the respect of their peers due to the overwhelming pressure of media attention are most likely to be premature.
It is up to those directly involved in the sports world to riseabove this and see it for the tabloid news reporting that it is.
Aslong as those forced to have their dirty linen washed in public cancontinue to work at an acceptable level, news of their extramaritalbehavior should never force them out of employment or a prestigiousposition.