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 yesterday 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 soccer editor Tony Evans said it had appeared increasingly clear that the newspaper had been duped, and that their checks had not been stringent enough.
The Times had initially launched a spirited defense of its story that Qatar was to launch a “Dream Football League (DFL),” even though a French Web site 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, said of the tale that the Qataris were proposing a new money-spinning summer tournament offering stunning financial rewards.
The Qatar Football Association swiftly distanced itself from the story, saying they had no involvement, but the Times stood firmly behind reporter Oliver Kay, insisting their scoop had nothing to do with the Web site’s version.
Kay, the newspaper’s chief soccer correspondent, was equally adamant, at the time saying: “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 Web site, 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,” Kay said.
Intense speculation on social media Web sites continued and yesterday 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.
“The warning signs — that no one had heard specific details of the DFL or seen its plans — were missed. 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,” he added.