Media David Beckham Crisis Pr

Could the C-word be the key to Beckham's knighthood?

By Andrew Eborn and Richard J. Hillgrove VI | Columnists

February 15, 2017 | 8 min read

Sometimes you need to transgress to progress in terms of your personal brand. Take the case of David Beckham.

David Beckham

The leaked email in which Becks referred to the honours committee as “unappreciative cunts” might just turn out to be the best thing that could have happened in his long-standing stalemate with the committee.

The Russian hackers who stumbled on the email between Beckham and his agent thought it worth a cool £1m to keep quiet. When Becks didn't budge and it was made public you might have thought it to be the final whistle for our erstwhile football favourite.

But this doesn’t put Beckham out of play for a knighthood at all. Far from it. Becks was in limbo with nothing he could say or do giving him any traction with the honours committee. In fact, this is a blast of fresh air that could give him his second wind.

It’s been argued for some time that his tax affairs were the barrier to his becoming Sir David, but tax affairs per se aren’t always barriers to knighthoods.

There’s many a good knight to be found in Monaco… EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou was resident in Monaco when he was knighted as was Arcadia Group chairman and former BHS owner Sir Philip Green. Green’s wife Tina owned the UK businesses through a Jersey-based company at the time of his investiture. In fact, Sir Philip was David Cameron’s ‘How to Save on Waste’ tsar at one point, so hardly deemed untouchable because of his tax affairs.

To knight or not to knight, that has been the question hanging over Beckham like a dark cloud for some time. Few would disagree that he deserves a knighthood for his fine sportsmanship and charity work, so why the deadlock?

It’s as if the more Beckham does for charity, the further he gets from his goal. We’ve seen this scenario before. In Hollywood, Steven Spielberg was looked over and overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for years. Then he changed tack. He showed his gritty side.

Spielberg’s moment came when he delivered Schindler’s List, the film about a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand mainly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. At that point the academy could no longer deny him his long deserved Oscar. Check mate.

In fact, the director took home his first two Oscars, for best director and best picture and the film received a total of seven academy awards in all. Now Spielberg has even been elected to the academy’s august board of governors.

Time for Team DB to put a similar strategy into action. Bring on the heat and bend it like Beckham. He needs a charity-soccer hybrid to build on his footballing legacy.

Our client, Football for Peace, co-founded by Chilean Fifa legend Elias Figueroa and British Pakistani Muslim Kashif Siddiqi in 2013, is a prime opportunity. Pele and Maradona are both supporters, as is Prince Albert of Monaco, and Pope Francis met with Siddiqi recently at the Vatican.

The head of the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace has signed a partnership agreement with Football for Peace. Cities for Peace, like Birmingham which was graced by a visit from Prince William, are using the universal language of the beautiful game to cut through religious, cultural and economic barriers to create harmony, particularly in areas where extremism can breed easily.

The leaked Beckham expletive was just so wrong, it was right. It shows him to be human, one of the lads, perfectly at home in the football arena where he could now kickstart his bid for that elusive knighthood. He could turn that four-letter word into a red letter day.

He’s not the first person in the public eye to be caught out with the C-word. There were red faces when broadcaster James Naughtie introduced then culture secretary Jeremy Hunt as Jeremy Cunt on Radio 4’s Today programme in 2010. These things happen in broadcasting and are endearing. Naughtie was later reported joking about his slip of the tongue – or perhaps more Freudian slip – in a Guardian interview celebrating his 21 years on the programme.

Nor is Beckham a stranger to controversy. There was the Russian PR-style attempted character assassination as he led England’s 2018 World Cup bid in 2011. The false story of a Bosnian prostitute who claimed to have bedded Beckham was splashed in Bauer-owned In Touch magazine. The aim? To annihilate his reputation, credibility and, by extension, England’s bid.

The same dirty tricks PR also produced another false story about Beckham allegedly having an affair with a ‘married mother of two whose husband tried to ram Beckham’s vehicle outside their children’s school’.

Sex scandals are as old as the hills but these days don’t automatically spell disaster. They can even benefit the brave. Kim Kardashian did very well as a result of her leaked sex tape in 2003, as did Paris Hilton a year later.

In 2006 Abbey Clancy, the girlfriend of footballer Peter Crouch, was splashed across the front page of the News of the World snorting cocaine. It tuned out to be a snow cloud with a silver lining as she transformed from WAG into fully fledged celebrity in her own right. By 2013 Clancy was winning the nation’s hearts along with the glitter ball on Strictly Come Dancing. In 2015, she won Celebrity Mother of the Year.

Today’s Trumped-up media makes creating long-term damage very difficult. Car crash exposure gets you noticed. It gives you the opportunity to create a new plot point.

This means the pitch is in prime condition for Beckham to play his next fixture. We all love an underdog, and as victim of a Russian hack his underdog status is assured.

It’s a game that needs careful handling, though. No more media shark tank – you’re in a goldfish bowl now, with nowhere to hide. Even injunctions won’t save you in a world where foreign newspapers can post information online within seconds, as this episode illustrated yet again.

The rules are simple enough: don’t say anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to see published in a newspaper; don’t upload compromising pictures to the cloud; remember that social media is very, very public; be prepared for everything you have ever said or done to be made public.

The bottom line is if you think you can keep anything private, you c**t. And if you need help with getting match fit for today’s media Super Bowl, call in the experts. @andreweborn @octopustv @6Hillgrove

Media David Beckham Crisis Pr

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