Neil Ashton, a columnist for the Daily Mail and formerly of the News of the World, has developed a reputation for having the best Chelsea sources after breaking a number of stories on the club in recent years. But days after being nominated for Sports Journalist of the Year, Ashton's sources appear to have duped him into publishing a fake Chelsea scouting report on Wigan under the guise of it being an official document.
On Monday, two days after Chelsea beat Wigan 4-1, the fake document was published in the print version of the Daily Mail as an exclusive under the headline "REVEALED: How Rafa dossier worked a treat against Wigan." The contents of the dossier, described as a "detailed document handed to Sportsmail" were oddly simplistic for something supposedly compiled by Rafa Benitez's opposition analyst Xavi Valero and read "line by line" to Chelsea players by Benitez himself.
Valero suggested Wigan had ‘lapses in concentration in defence’, were ‘unbalanced’, lacked quality defenders and pace, and he predicted opposition teams could ‘kill them’.
And so it proved when Ramires was put through to score the first goal after Paul Scharner (‘ball-watcher’) and Gary Caldwell (‘Very slow in turning – run at him!’) were exposed by a slick Chelsea passing move.
But on Tuesday, the Daily Mail printed a rather significant correction. From the Guardian:
In a corrections column tucked away on page 2, the paper admitted: "It was understood that the scouting report referred to in the articles was a genuine Chelsea FC club document. We have since been advised that this is not the case and we are happy to clarify the position." No trace of the editorial own goal is available on the Daily Mail's website, as the online version of the story has been swiftly taken down.
Perhaps this was Chelsea's way of telling Ashton that they've plugged their leaks.