An MP accused a £40,000-aweek Premiership footballer of having no pride yesterday, after he successfully claimed legal aid to fight a spitting charge.
Bolton Wanderers striker El-Hadji Diouf is having his legal costs paid for by the state as he defends himself against a public order charge.
The decision was met with outrage at Westminster as MPs demanded an urgent overhaul of the law.
Bob Russell, MP for Colchester and the Liberal Democrat spokesman on sport, said: "I am appalled, and equally appalled at the arrogance of the man to have the gall to ask for legal aid.
"Frankly, the sooner this man leaves our shores the better. We all know the law is an ass but we did not expect it to be as bad as this.
"I have many constituents who are unable to get legal aid because of regulations imposed by governments.
"This demonstrates that the system is in urgent need of overhaul if someone on £40,000 a week can get legal aid.
"It beggars belief that he had the nerve to ask for it. Clearly he is a man with no pride."
Labour's Kate Hoey, a former Sports Minister, said: "This seems to me not to be what legal aid was set up to do.
"There are many poor people in my constituency who have been refused legal aid.
"If someone on £40,000 a week can get legal aid there is something wrong with the system."
And Labour peer Lord Mason, a former defence secretary, commented: "This just shows how cockeyed the system has become."
The Government has announced plans to make people earning more than £27,500 a year pay their own legal costs in magistrates' courts.
But the Senegalese footballer successfully applied for legal aid before the proposals become law.
The former African Player of the Year was accused of spitting at a Middlesbrough fan during Bolton's 1-1 draw at the Riverside Stadium in November.
He denies the offence and his solicitor has written to Teesside Magistrates to formally indicate he will plead not guilty. A pre-trial review will be held next month.
Diouf's solicitor declined to talk about the case. Alan Walsh said: "This is a case that is with the courts. This is a matter that cannot be commented on."
The average magistrates court case costs just over £500, according to the Commission which administers legal aid in England and Wales.
A spokesman explained: "The court will grant funding if it considers the application meets the 'interests of justice' test, for example, the case is so serious that if the individual is found guilty they are likely to go to prison or lose their job."
It is understood that Diouf, a French-speaker, could lose his job if he were convicted of disorder and banned from football grounds.
The spokesman added: "At present, there is no means testing for defendants in magistrates' courts.
"If a case goes to the crown court, the judge can order a defendant who is found guilty to repay all their legal costs.
"Proposals to introduce means testing for legal aid in the magistrates' courts is one of the measures included in the Criminal Defence Service Bill, which was presented to Parliament, following its inclusion in the Queen's Speech.
"Introducing means testing will ensure that those who can afford to pay for their own legal defence do so."