Text messages are ideal for the cheat: he's in the loo of the marital home, punching away on his mobile phone

In overruling the ban on naming a £1m-a-year footballer who strayed from his matrimonial bed on two occasions, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, struck a huge blow for press freedom. This ruling has now successfully and specifically broken down the distinction between the public interest and the public's interest.

Even the editors, former and current, gathered in St Bride's Church to celebrate 300 years of Fleet Street on the day of the ruling were surprised by Lord Woolf's lack of ambiguity. The price we as a society pay for protecting our democracy and defending the freedom of the press is that some individuals will, from time to time, have their own freedom eroded.

So far, newspapers have pulled off that most marvellous trick of having it both ways, of variously occupying two high grounds - the moral one and the commercial one. To justify publication "in the public interest", an editor stands upon the former. When the reason for running a story is that it is "interesting to the public" (that is, the readers), then it requires a quick sprint down from the moral high ground and up the other hill - after all, we are a business and we are here to please.

The one surprising aspect of the ruling was the assertion by Lord Woolf that "footballers are role models for young people and undesirable behaviour on their part can set an unfortunate example".

One can only wonder when Lord Woolf last asked a "young person" what he (and soccer fans are still largely "hes") emulated and most admired about today's star footballers. The answer would include, in no particular order: earning shed-loads of money; driving and not caring about smashing really fast cars; having the kind of haircuts your mum objects to; and shagging everything with hair and teeth. I do not believe that today's youth look to footballers for moral or matrimonial guidance.

Nor do football stars appoint themselves as moral beacons to the nation. Unlike an Estee Lauder contract, a footballer's conditions of employment have no morality clause. Yes, you can set yourself up as a happily married man and make lots of money out of Hello! and OK! spreads featuring your marital bliss - like David Beckham; but no one expects you, as a footballer, to be a role model. I'm not convinced that soccer stars are paid to do anything other than stay fit enough to kick a ball around a bit of lawn for a couple of hours and do funny things with their pullovers when they score a goal.

I can't help but wonder, though, had this case been about a philandering judge, whether Lord Woolf would have demanded of his own profession that they be role models to a nation.

Miss Pixelated, the lap-dancer and second victim in the Free Speech Footballer case, has cried foul. "Suddenly I realised I was just a bit on the side," she sobbed. Now, I have nothing against exotic artistes - although I cannot, hand on heart, say that some of my best friends are lap-dancers - but if you can't keep your clothes about you, Pixee, you at least need to keep your wits about you.

When a man "bombards you with text messages", it usually means he's in the loo of his matrimonial home, punching away on his mobile phone where his wife won't hear. Text messages are the first bastion of the cheating heart. Commitment they are not.

And finally, when a footballer picks you up in a lap-dancing club and says he will leave his wife for you, he means for the night.

Lord Pearson used the House of Lords to present a rather damning body of evidence attempting to prove the "institutionalised bias" of the BBC in general, and the Today programme in particular, in its reporting of the European debate. Owing to the sheer volume of the BBC's daily output, and its public sector mentality - never explain, never apologise, conceal at all costs - it is almost impossible to prove any case of bias against it. The diligent and ever-resourceful Lord Pearson has given it a good opening shot. So what are we to make of the reporting of the debate in the House of Lords on the Today programme the following morning? The item occupied the graveyard slot between 6.45am and 7am, so deathly that not even the Liberal Democrats will take it. The tone was somewhere between sneering and mocking. If you want to know how seriously Lord Pearson's report was taken, please note the scheduling: it gave priority to the foiled kidnapping of Father David Lloyd's four-year-old Welsh terrier, Rosa.

With a little help from the News of the World, Will Young of Pop Idol came out at the weekend, to many congratulations and pontifications on how his homosexuality would affect his future earnings.

All too true. Within the music industry, Will's sexuality was an open secret. Sadly, this probably had a bearing on why Gareth Gates, who came second in the TV competition, was snapped up by Pepsi for £750,000 to front a new advertising campaign. They claim that Will did not have "the right image" for their product - musically, that is.

The truth is that openly gay stars only really make the news when they are either ill (Freddie Mercury) or behaving madly (Michael Barrymore). The real interest is in the outing.

Headlines are the sustenance of celebrity. You need a love life to thrive as a pop star, and happy gay lovers do not make headlines. And we thought things had changed.

This article first appeared in the 18 March 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Far from the Promised Land