Journalist charged over England fan 'trespass'

PRETORIA - South African police have charged a British tabloid journalist with helping a fan gain access to the England dressing room after a World Cup match, national police commissioner Bheki Cele said on Tuesday.

Sunday Mirror reporter Simon Wright was arrested in Cape Town on Monday after closed circuit television footage indicated he helped 32-year-old fan Pavlos Joseph get into the England locker room after their June 18 draw with Algeria, police said.

The paper said its reporter had not done anything wrong and rejected the accusations. "The police have reason to believe this incident was orchestrated," Cele told a news conference in Pretoria.

"The police believe the motive was to put the World Cup security in a bad light and possibly to profit from it."

Wright interviewed Joseph at length for a post-match story in which he branded the England team a "disgrace" for their poor performance against lowly-ranked Algeria, only a few days after a disappointing 1-1 draw against the United States.

In the article, he described how Joseph eyeballed the dejected players and told them: "That was woeful and not good enough."

Joseph's surprise appearance in the changing room, which included a short conversation with former England captain David Beckham, also raised concerns about lax security at the tournament, the first to be staged in Africa.

"As South African police hunted high and low for Pavlos, unaware of his name and scouring CCTV for his face, the man at the centre of it all was calmly sitting down to breakfast with the Sunday Mirror," Wright wrote.


Cele said Wright was alleged to have booked Joseph into a hotel under a false name and had made him sign a contract for exclusive rights to all interviews after the incident.

"We know that there was a seven day contract to speak to only that journalist," Cele said.

Wright has been charged with attempting to "defeat the ends of justice" and contravening immigration laws. He is due to appear in court on Wednesday and has been ordered to surrender his passport and is on bail of 3,000 rand.

"He was engaged in a legitimate story for his newspaper and any suggestion that he or the newspaper was involved with Pavlos Joseph before he entered the England dressing room is entirely false," the paper's publishers Trinity Mirror said in a statement.

Joseph, who was arrested for trespass, is on bail of 500 rand ($65) and is due in Cape Town Magistrates Court on Tuesday, a day earlier than originally expected, when he is likely to learn if he will face a criminal trial or not.

Contrary to Wright's report on the dressing room incident, Beckham has said Joseph did not give the England players a piece of his mind. Rather, he just said "hello" before walking out of the room, Beckham said.

Follow on Twitter Join on Facebook