Qatar Dream League story turns into ‘nightmare’

Qatar Dream League story turns into ‘nightmare’

Rollback: The Times newspaper accepts it was ‘duped’ about story on £175 million venture

Ossian Shine

Britain’s Times newspaper has published a full climbdown following an internal investigation of the ‘Qatar Dream League’ story it ran last week,an episode the paper on Monday described as a “journalistic nightmare”.

In a column headlined ‘When we are wrong,we will hold our hands up. It’s the right thing to do’,the newspaper’s Football Editor Tony Evans said it had appeared increasingly clear that the newspaper had been duped,and that their checks had not been stringent enough in the rush to publication.

The Times had initially launched a spirited defence of its March 13 story that Qatar was to launch a “Dream Football League” even though a French website said the scoop was based on its own spoof and that the paper had been the victim of a hoax. “It all came out of my imagination,” Jerome Latta,the editor of Les Cahiers du Football,told Reuters of the tale that the Qataris were proposing a new moneyspinning summer tournament offering stunning financial rewards.


The Qatar Football Association swiftly distanced itself from the story,saying they had no involvement and had heard nothing,but the Times stood firmly behind reporter Oliver Kay,insisting their scoop had nothing to do with the website’s version.

Kay,the newspaper’s chief soccer correspondent,was equally adamant,at the time telling Reuters: “I’ve been amused by the speculation about the source of this story. I can guarantee you 100 percent,1,000 percent,175 million percent,that my story had nothing to do with any website,spoof or otherwise.

“I’ve no idea about their modus operandi. What I know is that my source is very good,the information is very good and that there is more where that story came from.”

Still,though,intense speculation on social media websites continued and on Monday Evans conceded that the Times had made a “massive mistake”.

“Because so many significant people in football did not laugh off the idea,it seemed that the story could be genuine,” Evans wrote.

“In principle,the idea was possible. There were plenty to attest to that.

“In reality,the story appears to have been invented and had just enough plausibility to be seductive.” The Times’s climbdown was mostly welcomed by those following the story online,many applauding the newspaper for its transparency and for admitting it shortcomings with regard to the story. (Reuters)

How times climbed down on its defence

* Kay (Times’ football correspondent) began to call some of Europe’s biggest clubs. The answers were off the record and fell into two categories. Some made it clear that they had no knowledge of the concept. The others said,yes,they had heard talk about such an idea,yes,£175 million was about the figure mentioned but,no,they did not think it was going to happen and could not see themselves being involved. These secondary sources treated the questions seriously. And here is where The Times made a massive mistake. Because so many significant people in football did not laugh off the idea,it seemed that the story could be genuine. The warning signs — that no one had heard specific details of the DFL or seen its plans — were missed.

* We value our reputation. There will be changes now to the way we operate,and an extra level of scepticism will be incorporated into our working practices. But one thing will not change. If we get it wrong,we will hold our hands up and admit it.