England's 2018 World Cup bid has been hit by slurs against the private life of David Beckham, a key member of the team aiming to bring the tournament back to England.
Just two days before FIFA announces whether England have succeeded, Beckham - England's most iconic sporting ambassador - finds himself targeted by German-based publishing firm Bauer which has filed papers in a Los Angeles court claiming he has a "reputation for adultery". The Daily Star quoted Beckham as saying the allegations were part of a "desperate smear campaign".
Earlier in the year In Touch magazine, which is published by Bauer, made a series of claims against Beckham which he vigorously denied, later filing a law suit for damages of £16 million. According to the Daily Star, Bauer's defence document was leaked this week to a well known US gossip site.
Sources close to Beckham insist the stories are nothing more than "dirty tricks" timed to derail England's World Cup bid. Beckham is set to launch a three-pronged assault in Zurich on Tuesday alongside Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William in order to push England's bid across the line.
Beckham remained focused on the job when asked about England's chances on Monday, insisting he was "confident" over the outcome of Thursday's vote.