Football Media Review: David Beckham under fire

DAVID BECKHAM has become one of the faces of Qatar 2022 – the TV cameras home in on him, he’s been at the centre of a number of controversies and the reaction to his role with the Qataris has not been well received. As a man who courts publicity wherever he goes, Beckham must have expected that his presence would attract attention, that his lucrative arrangements would be the target of criticism in this most unwanted of World Cups.

Some newspapers, such as the Daily Mirror, have suggested Beckham may have damaged his reputation beyond repair. Certainly, with a charity CV that includes UNICEF, Aids relief and sports development for children, Beckham’s eagerness to received vast sums of money from Qatar is contradictory to say the least. Social media, inevitably, has had its say: “Money means more to you than women’s safety…. It’s called greed. How much money do you need?”.

The artist Cold War Steve has created a piece of work that includes Beckham, in Peaky Blinders livery, rolling a wheelbarrow full of money along with other possible beneficiaries of the World Cup. The figures being mentioned vary, topping out at £ 150 million in the form of £ 15 million per year for 10 years.

Beckham’s arrangements are in stark contrast to his wife’s former Spice Girls colleague, Mel C, who has turned down the offer to sing at the World Cup as she would not be comfortable taking the money. The Daily Record wondered if this might create a rift between the Beckhams and the most savvy member of the band.

The Independent asks if “it is finally curtains for football’s golden boy….the man who could hitherto do no wrong?” The paper describes Beckham’s general demeanour as “sugary sweet but also achingly bland”.

The Athletic points out that Beckham has said very little about the key issues around Qatar, but prefers to offer the hope that “the World Cup will be a platform for progress and tolerance.” Such a soundbite is typical of this age of anodyne statements and any belief that appropriate due diligence has been done by meeting the country’s leaders is pure naivety. Nicholas McGeehan of human rights group Fair Square said he would ask Beckham, “where are you getting your information from. It is from the Qataris, it is far from independent. Ask Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch.”

Beckham’s past position as a gay icon has been all but destroyed given Qatar’s complete intolerance of homosexuality. Peter Tatchell, the campaigner for gay rights, has urged Beckham to think again about the company he keeps.

But it could get worse for the former England captain. The Financial Times reported that Beckham is happy to talk to anyone who might be interested in buying Manchester United, his old club, with the aim of “lending credibility” to a bid. The Guardian, noting Beckham’s very neat facial hair, commented: “Let’s hope our manscaped figurehead finds a ship to lash himself to in a very short order, allowing him to once again set sail on lucrative tides.”

Rio Ferdinand, speaking to the Manchester Evening News, said Beckham did not have the cash to take over United but, “he would come with a consortium. He comes with people who do have deep pockets who have the ability to and go and execute on a deal like that.”

Meanwhile, the editor of Attitude magazine, which featured Beckham on its cover, has spoken out about the stunt performed by comedian Joe Lycett in which he promised to shred £ 10,000 if Beckham didn’t withdraw from Qatar. “The fall of David Beckham’s star has been fast and heavy. It’s a reminder that being an advocate for not just LGBTQ+ rights, but women’s rights, immigrant worker’s rights and any human rights should not be lip service. It’s not a trend to boost a person’s profile. Human rights are not a fashion statement to be made to generate coverage in the style pages of tomorrow’s magazines. They are not a new haircut to stir up media attention. They are real issues that affect the livelihood of billions of vulnerable people around the country.”

Sources: Daily Mirror, Independent, Daily Record, Manchester Evening News, Financial Times, The Guardian, Daily Mail, The Athletic, Attitude.

Dundee United in profit amid gloomy season

IT HAS been a bad season so far for Dundee United – bottom of the Scottish Premiership, out of Europe early on, hammered 9-0 by Celtic and 7-0 by Alkmaar. It has certainly been a tough baptism for their coach, Liam Fox. While their home form has improved, their away results continue to be dire; there’s no doubt that Fox will have his work cut out to take the Tangerines away from relegation trouble.

But from a financial perspective, Dundee United saw their revenues rise from £ 3.8 million in 2020-21 to £ 8.3 million in 2021-22, the highest level of income over the past decade. Their pre-tax loss was £ 1 million, an improvement on the previous season which saw them lose £ 2.6 million. Post-tax, Dundee United made a profit of £ 280,000. The financials include a £ 600,000 covid insurance payout as well as a £ 100,000 Scottish government grant.

The club’s wage bill rose to a record £ 5.9 million, representing 71% of income, a vast improvement on 2020-21 when salaries were 132% of earnings. Since 2013, Dundee United’s wages have gone up by 80% and they have doubled since 2017.

Dundee United’s “football” revenues totalled £ 5.3 million (matchday and broadcasting combined) from an average home gate of 6,500 at Tannadice, contributing 64% of income. Commercial activity brought in £ 1.9 million, 23% of the overall total. A final placing of fourth meant they qualified for the Europa Conference League in 2022-23, but the run lasted two games in which they lost 7-1 on aggregate to Dutch side Alkmaar.

In 2021-22, the club enjoyed their best profit on player sales since 2018, about £ 1.3 million from the sales of Lawrence Shankland (£ 1 million to Beerschot) and Kerr Smith to Aston Villa (£ 2 million). They spent £ 435,000 on players, notably the £ 315,000 paid to Ingolstadt for Finnish winger Ilmari Niskanen. Ogren insists that as well as developing their own talent, player trading is an important part of the club’s business model. Over the past 10 years, their net spend is £ 9 million, suggesting the player development strategy is paying off. A total of 17 players from the academy played in the first team

In the summer of 2022, Dundee United were very active in the market and signed Dylan Levitt from Manchester United for a figure thought to be £ 300,000. Levitt is in the Wales squad for the World Cup in Qatar. They also acquired Australian goalkeeper Mark Birighitti from Central Coast Mariners and Rangers’ winger Glenn Middleton.

The pandemic had an impact on the club’s liquidity and although they have a healthy £ 2.7 million of cash, they do have borrowings of over £ 12 million, most of which is due to the club’s owner. Chairman and owner Mark Ogren said that finishing fourth exceeded the expectations they had in 2021-22. He also told fans the club is firmly behind Liam Fox and is confident of reaching the top six by the end of the season. Ogren’s aim is to make Dundee United self sufficient as he has stated that he is not willing to fund the club forever. According to media reports, he has already pumped in approximately £ 13 million.