Despite having more off-side affairs than Tiger Woods, despite deceiving us all as Dad of the Year, while he dumped the kids to play away, I’m backing John Terry’s claim to remain captain of England.
What did we expect from him? He’s a footballer, not a saint. He’s not a role model for how we expect our kids to behave either. I particularly take exception to how footballers are allowed to spit on the pitch live on TV. That’s disgusting. But I wouldn’t accept that a child of mine – or a child near me – could spit with impunity because he’s seen it on-field, on telly. Better to tell kids that extraordinary people can get away with dreadful stuff, and maybe when they grow and get to be extraordinary, they can too. But not yet, thank you, not on my watch. (Better keep that rap for your own kids: dishing out advice in public needs to be carefully-judged.)
Anyhoo. As Max Clifford, whose understanding of sporting reputations is second to none, said yesterday on BBC Breakfast TV, true football fans – that’s millions and millions of Brits – are not bothered by who or how many Terry allegedly bedded.
Sponsors don’t care much either. If Terry’s sponsors wanted to avoid all hint of scandal they would not have sponsored any footballers in the first place. No more than Kate Moss’s sponsors were surprised when their heroin-chic-looking model was exposed as being an authentic serial coke abuser. The sad truth was that the suspicion that she was debauched was what made her attractive in the first place.
However, sponsorship and humbug are inseparable. Kate Moss first lost and then got back her sponsorship deals. Today she earns more than ever from them. I predict that Tiger Woods will do the same – when he gets out of sex-rehab – and so will John Terry.
Even the great West Ham and England legend Bobby Moore got himself arrested in Bogota, Colombia, for stealing a bracelet six days before the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Moore was also a notorious late night boozer, a womaniser (behind his wife’s back) and he was rumoured to have been involved in some dodgy business deals. So what? He’s still Britain’s most famous, most revered footballing hero.
But, and it’s quite a big But. Everyone in the public needs to remember that whilst views on private morality have changed a bit, expectations of honesty have changed a lot. The modern trick seems to be that you do not have to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. You can tell people to mind their own business, for a start. You can stay schtumm, if you do it prettily or wryly, or whatever. But avoid lying. There was a time when people understood hyprocrisy and though they probably still do, really, you’re fair game if you’re caught out.
So here’re a few rules that might come in useful to stars and their PRs managing similar risks to John Terry and the late Booby Moore:
• Don’t let PRs sell the politically-correct narrative of your personal life.
• Don’t use personal virtues as a shield to promote your professional ones.
• Headlines about your personal virtues are hostages to fortune.
• Avoid the temptation to indulge in moral outbursts on any topic.
• Don’t bring your personal life to work or include it in your PR.
• Those who live by the sword die by it
• Don’t lecture anyone (especially not your staff or your adoring fans) about personal morality.
• Always assume that everything always gets into the media in the end.
• The public love sinners and loathe saints.
Once the story’s out – shrug, smile and tell people to mind their own business (and grovel in rehab while the heat’s on if need be).