It’s not you, David, it’s the gimmick

IN 1977, as a 12-year-old, my dad took me to watch our team, South Melbourne, in the first year of the National Soccer League. Reports from that day say more than 17,000 people packed into Middle Park and for me it felt like I was at a ground in Europe and experiencing in person what I had seen on my TV.
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The reason for the excitement was that both clubs that day, South Melbourne and St George, had invested heavily in two high-profile guest players. South had Malcolm McDonald, otherwise known as ”Super Mac”, while St George had brought over Charlie George, a great player with a playboy lifestyle.

The game ended 3-2 to St George, with George scoring the winner and Super Mac scoring twice for my team. It was a promoter’s dream.

With Beckham mania now enveloping the A-League, it is interesting to note that while we are constantly looking to progress the game, often we find ourselves revisiting history and employing the same selling techniques in search of growth.

That day 35 years ago definitely had an impact on me and gave me an early lesson on how all that glitters is definitely not always gold. The short-term boost to the club and the game was never capitalised on and what should have been a foundation on which to build the game became an obsession with who could come up with the next gimmick that would get them the most headlines.

High-profile players were wheeled out for guest appearances and in the end the credibility of the competition was the main victim of this celebrity pursuit.

There has been plenty of excitement generated on the back of David Beckham potentially joining the A-League, and mostly it’s been very positive coverage. I was asked last week whether I would be interested in him at Melbourne Victory, and my answer was a fairly succinct ”no”, but it should be clarified that the answer had more to do with the guest stint than the player.

There is no doubt Beckham would be great and in my view he should be pursued if he does see Australia as a possible destination, but the guest-playing scenario is something I am not a fan of. I know we live in an ever-changing world, but culture and tradition should still have a place when it comes to building sporting clubs and competitions.

When I see players code-jumping in the NRL, rugby union and AFL, I cringe because I think it attacks the integrity of every player who has given their all in the pursuit of a professional career.

It also demeans the competition because it gives the impression it is somehow easy to jump from one to another, a fact I have no doubt is false because I see how hard the players in the respective codes work to achieve the ultimate success.

A guest player has the same feeling for me. It suggests someone can come in and have an overriding impact irrespective of the months of work everyone else has put in.

I love it when clubs stand for something and publicly label themselves as community clubs or development clubs, because it shows there is a belief in the journey they are taking.

I also understand there is a commercial aspect that needs to be addressed when you are in a growth stage and the Beckham brand is one that is guaranteed a return.

I just hope whoever takes him on convinces him to become a permanent member of the family rather than a guest so that the return goes beyond the commercial aspect.

Some may say I am old-fashioned in my thinking, but remembering what happened 35 years ago perhaps it is not me who hasn’t changed with the times.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.