Gary Lineker, best known striker in English football history, talks about his views on sponsorship in sport, particularly by alcohol and gambling interests.
Sport and politics have never been very comfortable bed-fellows. Politicians often looking completely out of place at sporting events, and demonstrating a complete lack of populous understanding when asked about it. This is especially true in the UK where the political classes are devoid of any real knowledge or connection with the sports that the average ho-hum member of the British public take an interest in. This is especially true of the working class mainstay, football.
Now let us be clear, football is a game played between two teams of 11 men with a spherical ball, it involves no helmets, no pads and predominantly involves use of the feet. If you believe there is some other sort of football that mainly uses the hands, involves dressing full grown men in tights and padding them against injury, you’re very much mistaken and merely appear foolish in front of 95% of the planet.
Gary Lineker is one of the best known footballers from the UK having played for a variety of teams over a career that spanned from 1978 to 1994 including 80 appearances for the English national team, and he’s most noted for never having been penalized with yellow or red cards at any point during that time. It is perhaps this “Mr Clean” image that led him to become a commentator for the BBC after his retirement.
Now whilst as part of his duties fronting BBC’s football coverage his opinions are sometimes mentioned and discussed, these tend to be of individual game instances or players actions rather than about the state of the game as a whole. However recently GQ magazine managed to drag a little more out of England’s best all-time striker by use of a secret weapon, Alastair Campbell, former spin-doctor for the Labour government of Tony Blair, and some of those comments are making the gambling news.
Spin Doctor For Tony Blair
Gary Lineker Interviewed By Spin Doctor
• 80 International caps, zero red/yellow cards
• Internet betting in the UK shouldn’t sponsor football
• Alcohol a problem in sport
If Gary is seen as Mr Clean, Alastair Campbell almost certainly isn’t, being a figure synonymous with behind the scenes manipulation and media bullying. It’s actually hard to imagine these two in the same room as each other without some massive reality-ending explosion so different are they in character and achievement. It is perhaps the influence of Mr Campbell that dragged from Gary some wider opinions about the alcohol industry’s sponsorship deals.
“I have turned down deals with alcohol firms over the years. I do not agree with it.” Gary said. “The other thing that worries me is all the betting advertising and sponsorship in sport. All you ever see is commercials for gambling and apps, it is really dangerous, and I think we need to do something about both of them, alcohol and gambling. Gambling is just too easy to do now, and as a parent I worry about it, all those ads bombarding you with in-play betting.”
Which is precisely the sort of emotive carefully worded statement of opinion that made Alastair Campbell so loathed by the news media. The use of “as a parent” and “bombarding” making Gary sound like a Daily Mail reader’s wet dream with that language chosen specifically to make readers feel their children are under attack from these pernicious online gambling companies that refuse to employ Mr Campbell or indeed Mr Lineker but aren’t breaking UK gambling laws.
Not that it stops Gary being employed by the potato chip manufacturer Walkers as their number one branding advertisement and featuring on all their television commercials. Apparently alcohol abuse and unsafe gambling worry Mr Lineker and make him concerned for his children, but stuffing their faces with high oil content snack foods with no nutritional value doesn’t bother him as much. Alcoholism and problem gambling just don’t compare with obesity, apparently.
Obesity Less Worrying Than Gambling Or Drinking
Gary insisting that potato chips “do no harm at all” makes you wonder if he’s ever eaten any and whilst he’s right that obesity “is as much about exercise” as diet, it still seems a little disingenuous of Mr Lineker to decide which human vices are permissible and which shouldn’t be. Of course he was sat in a room with Alastair Campbell so perhaps delusions of grandeur were only to be expected.
Perhaps this is why Gary then went on to make such a scathing attack on FIFA. Now is FIFA corrupt? It is so corrupt and evil that even Satan could spend an hour insulting it and its boss Sepp Blatter without anyone thinking he was the pot calling the kettle black. “The only way it might change is for the clean countries to turn around and say: ‘You know what, we are not taking part in your tournaments.’ But I can’t see it happening. There is too much at stake.”
His choice of words there, once again, quite telling. He apparently can’t even rail against FIFA, alcohol and gambling without using a gambling reference in the language he uses to do so. This pretty much highlights just how detached from the realities of true football fans that both Mr Lineker and Mr Campbell have become. Getting rid of gambling and drinking from sport? You’re more likely to be able to remove lies and spin from politics, or smug opinionated hypocrite has-beens from television commentary jobs.
There might well be an intelligent, sensible, useful debate to be had about the sponsorship of sport and how people can be better encouraged to drink and gamble responsibly and safely, but if there are two people less suited to attempting to kick start that debate it is Mr. Goody-Two-Boots and The King Of Political Lies working together to produce an article for a magazine that no football fan would be caught dead reading, ever.