Ben Stokes and his wife have fiercely denied claims that England’s World Cup star hit out at her after pictures were published of an alleged confrontation during an awards ceremony.
The Media Guido website published images which it claimed showed Clare Stokes being held in a “choke hold” by her husband at the Professional Cricketers’ Association awards last week.
However, the couple have dismissed the “unbelievable” and “nonsense” claims, saying that he was playfully showing affection for her when his arm was raised.
Their version of events was supported by the England and Wales Cricket Board, which refuted the allegations, while acknowledging “for the millions who are impacted by domestic violence, this is a very real and serious issue”.
The photographer who took the images has since told Telegraph Sport he could not be sure the incident was even a row.
Earlier the Guido website, which specialises in media and Westminster gossip, had claimed its pictures showed how a fight had ensued after “Clare tells Ben she doesn’t want to hear it, speak to the hand”.
Unbelievable what nonsense these people will make up! Me and Ben messing about squishing up each other’s faces cos that’s how we show affection and some pap tries to twist it in to a crazy story! And all before we then have a romantic McDonalds 20 mins later! @benstokes38pic.twitter.com/1HmPV1ZfxG
— Clare Stokes (@clarey_11) October 8, 2019
“All of a sudden Stokes grabs his wife Clare in a choke hold and then she either falls back, pulls away or is pushed back by him,” the website adds, with no attribution to witnesses.
However, less than two hours after the story was published, Clare wrote, in a message shared by her husband, on Twitter: “Unbelievable what nonsense these people will make up! Me and Ben messing about squishing up each other’s faces cos that’s how we show affection and some pap tries to twist it in to a crazy story! And all before we then have a romantic McDonalds 20 mins later!”
The images were taken at around midnight shortly after Stokes had paid glowing tribute to Clare, who turned 30 the following day, during an acceptance speech for his player-of-the-year award at the Roundhouse in Camden, north London. None of the other players were allowed to bring their wives.
The ECB launched an immediate investigation before Tom Harrison, the governing body’s chief executive, said in a statement: “We have spoken with both Clare and Ben – as well as others in attendance – who have all clarified the innocent context behind the still photographs taken at last week’s PCA Awards. Whilst it is not the case here, we recognise that for the millions who are impacted by domestic violence, this is a very real and serious issue.’’
Media Guido had claimed earlier that the story of their alleged confrontation had been covered up by sports journalists, but several attendees at the event said they had no knowledge of a confrontation and the couple had been in good spirits.
The photographer behind the images – who would identify himself only as Darren – claimed another partygoer had “said something or did something that made Ben’s wife angry” earlier.
Eventually, he said, “Ben and his wife came through to the passageway leading to the outside. That’s when he raised his hand to her face. It wasn’t obvious whether they were having a row or whether he did it as a joke – it was difficult to tell.”
Stokes, cleared of affray at Bristol Crown Court last year following a street brawl, is the bookmakers’ favourite to be BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The all-rounder was the driving force in England’s maiden World Cup win as well as the Ashes series draw with Australia. Both his match-winning performances in the World Cup final and his 135 not out in the third Test at Headingley rank alongside the greatest batting performances in English cricket history.
These claims were the second time in a month that Stokes, 28, and the ECB have attacked reports surrounding his private life. Stokes previously said reports of his mother’s first son and daughter being killed four years before he was born were “immoral” and “heartless”.
The day after the awards ceremony, Stokes took his wife for a film premiere and also helped arranged her birthday party. “He flew her best friends over from Australia,” a close friend added. “He worships the ground she walks on.”