Publicity is a curse upon this world. In the good old days when the world was powered by steam and swords the only celebrities were the ruling monarchs, a few Generals and the odd playwright. It was simple. If you saw a gold carriage being towed by a white horse towards St. James Palace then you knew who was inside. However, since the moving pictures were first invented things started to get out of hand. All of a sudden Charlie Chaplin was famous, then Clark Gable and before you knew it Eddy the Eagle was selling us 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner.
Fame and publicity are very highly sought after commodities. Once upon a time they were difficult to come by. In the same way that an Elizabethan groundskeeper dreamt for electricity, fame was something most of us could only ever imagine. These days we have The Only Way is apparently Essex, Jersey Beach, Big Brothers, I’m a Jungle and of course, Made in Fulham Broadway. Then we have the Twitterists, one goofy teenager says something mean to Cheryl Tweedy and its front page news, pushing the Syrian crisis back to page 24. Alex Reid…need I say any more?
Of course then there are sports stars. 99% of athletes just get on with it and kick balls, jump fences or drive cars in circles. There are those that have a certain appeal and become simple marketing tools, or brands. The faceless corporations who all bathe in gold bullion find someone they like the look of, whether it is a beard, a chest or funny temper and mould them from a sporting hero into a logo, but there’s nothing new there.
These heroes’s can be used in great ways. They can be used to sell shampoo, trainers, renewable energy or cheese. They can also be used to raise the profile of something, like say, a sport in a developing country, most commonly this happens in football… They are called “Franchise players”, designed not to help a club on the pitch, but for the club to build an image around. They are worth billions.
You may have read this week that metro-sexual footballer David Beckham has tendered his resignation to his current team; LA Galaxy. In case you don’t know who he is, David Beckham is an English footballer who is also as globally recognised as Coca-Cola, McDonalds and the moon. Becks is a former Manchester United and Real Madrid player who also made 115 appearances for England, the second most. He also enjoyed kicking Argentineans. He shot to fame in 1996 when he scored against Wimbledon from the halfway line – I was there, my school life was ruined for there on in.
Anyway, his resignation from LA Galaxy has sent the footballing world into a Beckham bidding frenzy with top clubs from all over the world throwing their hats into the Beckham ring. Of course through all the English Premier League, the La Liga, Bundesliga and other top European league clubs in the mix, there in the middle of them all is the UAE Pro League jumping up and down waving its arms in the air.
I despise franchising; its so fake and plastic it completely misses the point. In football especially it has no place. But my idealism, it seems, is old fashioned. These day’s the whole artificial orchestration of top flight football is acceptable.
David Beckham, at 38, is coming to the end of his career. He was a decent footballer by all accounts in his day, but then Jimmy Saville used to be a popular TV personality too, not any more. There are apparently several UAE Pro League teams interested in hiring the services of Mr. Beckham, notably Al Jazira, Al Wasl and Al Ain Club. But will Becks be wooed here? And what will Victoria think? Has the UAE got enough shops?
Can you imagine David Beckham playing in the UAE? Now forgive me, but the standard of football over here isn’t great, Mark Lawrenson said so, and he’s right. It’s a bit fumble-rumble, un-fancy and route one. But the lads have pace; I fear that David won’t gel very easily. But how do you think he would feel in the dressing room? Knowing that the only reason he is there is not because of his current football abilities but because he appears on the Head & Shoulders bottles and Pepsi cans. He would have to play each game, pushing a UAE star out on to the substitute’s bench and that is going to cause problems. What if David isn’t playing well and the guy he has replaced could turn a match around? Will he be left on the pitch to flounder? What if he gets hit by a bus and breaks his legs?
Using David Beckham as pure publicity for the UAE Pro League is scandalous in my opinion. They would be better off in investing more money in creating their own national heroes as opposed to trading off one of ours. I wish that’s how we could do it in England.
My advice to David – and I hope he is reading this – is to stay away from the Pro-League, retire gracefully and be a family man. Thanks for the memories, apart from that halfway line goal of course and we look forward to seeing you on Celebrity Jungle in a few years time.
Go back to England and teach our future players to kick like you. You can still sell us Pepsi.