David Ginola is a Newcastle United legend.
He symbolises the flourish with which The Entertainers played under Kevin Keegan and brought Gallic flair, beautiful hair and an attitude that can only be described as laissez-faire.
He is anything but laissez-faire now though, and is about to run for FIFA president (again).
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Many people thought that his initial campaign was a badly conceived and cynical publicity stunt for betting company Paddy Power, which is fair enough; it might have seemed that way. I know that it wasn’t.
I know that the people behind that campaign are lifelong Newcastle United fans, but more importantly, are the same people who have been campaigning against the insidious devils at FIFA since 2010 with pressure group ChangeFIFA, based mainly on twitter.
In 2011 they persuaded Chilean footballing royalty Elias Figueroa to run for the FIFA presidency, a statesman and deeply respected figure in world football (his last club team was Colo-Colo for the record). This was sadly an unsuccessful campaign, and didn’t generate an appropriate amount of publicity for the likes of Sky Sports News to pick up on, a shame, but it shows that these guys are serious.
What they learnt was that in order for anybody to sit up and take notice; they had to find a candidate who was not only relevant to the short memories of the European/British football fan, but also the media. This candidate had to be iconic, intelligent and media savvy.
Unfortunately, finding such a man (or woman) who is willing to not only run for the presidency, but to suffer the almost inevitable derision from certain quarters of the media and establishment along with actually having the time to put together a decent campaign with sound policies and a credible manifesto, is an almost impossible and thankless task. Remember, these guys are doing this for free, with no financial gain of their own whatsoever, even running at a loss for the love of the game.
Now, a lot of people will say ‘but David Ginola didn’t do it for free’. True, but as anybody close to the world of football and footballers will tell you, showbiz if you like, the stars very rarely do anything for free.
Not because they are greedy (which in most cases they are), but because that’s just the way it is, if David Ginola had given his time for free it would have set a precedent for him that would have affected his perception within the game, and therefore his ability to command an appropriate fee for the media work he does.
It’s hard for me to write that, I fundamentally disagree with the amount the stars are paid to do what is basically a very easy job, but they do get paid those sums, legitimately, by people who are willing to pay them, so we can hardly blame the individual for that. If you were offered a pay-rise of 1,000% you’d probably take it.
Anyway, I am not trying to justify what DG was paid, but the fact remains, he needed to be paid, so, the next step was to find a company willing to back his campaign. Again, this is no mean feat.
Paddy Power have a history of the quirky, they have received criticism for some fairly low brow betting subjects and the fact they are basically a bookies shop, but while being sponsored by an ethical company like…umm…Sports Direct or Wonga, HSBC or Starbucks would have been ideal, sometimes you have to work with the people who are willing to work with you.
What Paddy Power did do, is show faith in the campaign and throw money behind it, so yes, they did get publicity, but they also allowed a campaign which otherwise would not have been possible, to be possible.
Much to David Ginola and changeFIFA’s credit, the exact amount he was paid was made public, transparent, with nothing hidden, and boy did they get stick for that. That though, is the very foundation upon which David Ginola’s campaign was being run: honesty and transparency. These are concepts completely alien to FIFA, and seemingly the rest of the world too, as only a handful of switched-on people actually recognised the message and read between the lines.
What that campaign did succeed in doing was to raise awareness that there is an alternative to the stone-set establishment, which was taking the pi** on a tectonic level.
Another former footballer, Luis Figo, who has more global acclaim than Daveed, did manage to get a stage further. Even so, there was never going to be any other winner than Sepp Blatter.
The point is, now that the despicable little oik has fallen on his sword, there might be an opportunity for somebody with integrity to begin the arduous task of bringing the repute back to FIFA. Why not David Ginola?
As Newcastle fans, we may have a romantic memory of the Frenchman, some more romantic than others, but he does have credentials.
He has the respect of a great number of people within the sport for his playing ability, he knows the sport inside out, he was an ambassador for the 2018 English FA bid for the World Cup, so he has experience of administrative/ambassadorial type stuff.
On top of that he has been running a successful vineyard, producing rosé wine in Provence, so he knows a thing or two about business.
Whether he is successful or not, how does the monumental news of June 2nd affect Newcastle United?
It may be too far-gone, but the whole way football is set up is to make money. It is unlikely that will change, but when you consider that a lot of the people who represented the FA (and FAs of other countries) were pandering to FIFA’s needs with both legislative issues and ruling issues (allegedly) in return for commensurate remuneration (loads of money) then it may just be possible that with a change of regime we might be able to get some things done that previously had been held back.
It might be that a fair system is introduced, better than FFP, which creates a more level playing field (terrible football cliché) for all teams to compete on.
Imagine if, like in America, each club had a certain amount they could spend on wages, so you could have a star player or two, but would have to make it up elsewhere, or develop your youth system.
There are myriad problems with that obviously, and ways around it for the likes of Abu Dhabi, but having the ability to attempt to do these things would represent a huge step forward, and the impact on Newcastle United is clear.
Another lesson we can learn from changeFIFA and the media outlets focussed on bringing down the FIFA dictatorship is that campaigning can work, if it is organised, coherent, persistent and importantly, correct.
Our own war with Mike Ashley is entirely different to the Blatter battle, Blatter and his cronies appear to have been acting illegally as well as immorally, Jack Warner has admitted as much, but Ashley is just being an obstinate businessman, a tw*t, yes, but a criminal? Not that I know of.
Put it this way, the FBI aren’t about to smash in through his mock Tudor windows and arrest him, you can’t arrest someone for owning a football club. However, should the online campaigns wish to succeed, they could take heed of the persistence of anti-FIFA groups, and take heart from the success they have had (not that they were alone, of course there were a lot of people interested on the grandest of scales).
They might even be able to persuade David Ginola to take over the club.