Four home nations have all now reached the knockout stages of the European Football Championships. Now the managers of Britain’s political teams face their own tough test in the EU Referendum.
However, an unlikely source of political opinion has come out onto the pitch, shooting a goal right into the heart of the Leave Campaign – David Beckham, better known for his prowess with a football than his skills in the game of politics. But having already added a number of new bows to his string since retiring from football in 2013 - including documentaries for the BBC on the eve of the World Cup in Brazil, more time spent on his fragrances and generally improving “Brand Beckham” with his children and wife, Victoria. Now he has entered the referendum debate.
His statement about voting to Remain in the European Union pitches him not only against another former England international and Arsenal defender on the Leave side – Sol Campbell. But in supporting the Remain side he is also going against many of his own fans, who in some circumstances may feel he has come to represent more the metropolitan European or global establishment than people who share his humble roots.
In his statement, Beckham said that in his time criss-crossing the world playing the beautiful game he has witnessed a “vibrant and [inter]connected world” and explained his reasons for voting Remain. These include the fact that many of his great successes with Manchester United came with a diverse team from across Europe, suggested by his comments that “we were a better and more successful team because of a Danish goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel, the leadership of an Irishman Roy Keane and the skill of a Frenchman in Eric Cantona”. He finishes his statement by insisting “for our children and their children we should be facing the world together and not alone. For these reasons I am voting to Remain”.
Beckham’s intervention has added an extra celebrity dimension to the referendum debate, similar to that seen in Scotland in 2014. But how much influence will it actually have had in people’s decision to vote for either Leave or Remain? Will anyone decide to Remain in the EU because a former footballer, now multi-millionaire has recommended them to do so?
There are positives to his involvement in the debate, since young people (i.e. the people most politically apathetic) may consider voting due to the fact that Beckham is joining in with an otheriwise dull debate which it has been characterised by numerous opposing facts and figures. However, coming from a philanthropist, footballer, style icon and doting father, it can seem just a bit hubristic to issue a personal statement about his voting intention.
Yet it is interesting to see an increasing involvement in the social media age of celebrities in politics, from Joanna Lumley standing up for the Gurkhas to the original Top Gear duo of James May and Jeremy Clarkson filming an online video explaining their reasons for voting to Remain. Though, admittedly, these don't seem to extend beyond their continued ability to film many of their scenes for their show. We'll soon find out whether voters pay any heed to these sorts of messages.
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