Footballers' affairs 'convince children infidelity is acceptable'

Divorced: Chelsea's Ashley Cole split from X Factor judge Cheryl in February after tabloid claims of his infidelity

Divorced: Chelsea's Ashley Cole split from X Factor judge Cheryl in February after tabloid claims of his infidelity

Lurid claims about footballers' private lives are making young fans believe marriage is an institution destined to fail, experts have claimed.

England players such as Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Ashley Cole have been the subject of newspaper exposés alleging infidelity and their rumoured behaviour could be encouraging their youthful supporters to assume adultery is a social 'norm', it has been suggested.

Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers' Union charity and head of a Government review of the commercialisation and sexualisation, said sportsmen and women's habits could have a direct influence on children.

'I think there is a fair body of evidence out there that suggests that children are very influenced by certain individuals, particularly those in the public eye, a great deal, whether they be pop stars or sports people,' Mr Bailey told the Telegraph.

'One area that we will want to look at is where this influence comes from, what signals do children pick up from an early age and that will include role models.'

In the year of England's failure at the World Cup in South Africa, their onfield humiliation was accompanied by sleazy stories about the private lives of the squad's most renowned players.

A Sunday tabloid claimed in September that Manchester United and England striker Rooney had been unfaithful to his pregnant wife Coleen with a £1,200-a-night prostitute, six years after the footballer was alleged to have cheated on Coleen with vice girls while a teenage player at Everton.

Chelsea's Terry, meanwhile, was stripped of the England captaincy in February after the News of the World claimed the married defender had a four-month affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-girlfriend of Terry's former Chelsea and England team-mate Wayne Bridge.

Wayne Rooney

Off-field turmoil: Wayne Rooney reportedly cheated on his pregnant wife while John Terry was snubbed by ex-teammate Wayne Bridge after newspaper claims

Though Rooney and Terry have remained with their wives, their England colleague Cole divorced his spouse Cheryl in February after repeated allegations of his adultery.

And according to relationship support group Relate, media reports about footballers' family lives could have a lasting effect on children's views about marriage and fidelity.

'Actions have consequences and young people are growing up in a media-influenced culture where they perceive that having an affair is normal and a marriage that lasts in something which even many successful people can't aspire to,' said Relate's Jamie Murdoch.

'But what is of most concern... is the normalisation of infidelity as a consequence of footballers' activities.

'Celebrity and football culture and its portrayal in the media could already be having an impact on future relationships and we need to tackle this problem head on.'

Tottenham Hotspur player Peter Crouch was also alleged to have cheated on his partner with a prostitute this year while singers Mark Owen and Ronan Keating were reported to have had lengthy affairs.

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