Sport

Is modern football sport or entertainment?  Perhaps the answer lies in the evolution of the ways in which football is now watched – not to mention the sophisticated methods in which it is now marketed. Back in the post-flat-cap days when football was still primarily a male pursuit, when trundling off to a live match, a weekly fix of ‘Match of the Day’ and the occasional televised game mid-week was as much as most fans could expect, the medium of television now dominates football completely.

If you follow the Premier League and Champions League, you’re looking at ten or more hours of football on screen each week. A love of the lower divisions, additional European encounters and a penchant for the red button function now bring you the sexed-up beautiful game around the clock. Not only has viewing access gone stratospheric, but the sport’s exposure to its fans has kept pace. Multi-billion-pound deals for broadcasting rights has created a global television audience of, get this, nearly five billion.

Where once we stood shivering on the terraces for our fix, most football fans now enjoy their teams from the comfort of their own sofas. This has all had a monumental effect on marketing. Just as we expect high drama, perfect plotlines and superb spectacle from our favourite soaps and series, we have come to demand the same from the nation’s favourite sport. For proof, look no further than football advertising. Famous faces, familiar rock and pop songs, celebrity-accented voice-overs, exquisitely copy-written taglines. These promotions are now as perfectly produced as blockbuster movie trailers. All of which costs huge bucks. So the fact that football is now sold primarily as entertainment, instead of simply as sport, should not come as too gigantic a surprise. Nor should an absence of thrills and spills on the pitch so often leading to jeering and vociferous complaints from the stands – even if, paradoxically, the result is just what the jeerers wanted. It is no longer the winning. It is not even the taking part. Today, the game must entertain to the nth, or it is denounced as ‘boring’ and ‘not good enough’.

Do footballing heroes belong on a show business channel? We think so! ShowBiz TV is all about providing entertainment, and our ‘Football Heroes’ figure right up there with the best.  If you’re still in doubt, look no further than my handful of favourite footballers who ‘just happened’ to become actors. Athletic thesps, or thespian athletes? Either way, now that’s entertainment …

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VINNIE JONES

The former defensive midfielder who made his name at Wimbledon, Leeds United, Sheffield United and Chelsea, and who captained the Welsh national team, has been typecast as a thug in a number of films, including ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, ‘Snatch’, ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’, ‘Mean Machine’, and has starred alongside Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in action thriller ‘Escape Plan’. Love him or loathe him, he made his point.

DAVID BECKHAM

Star status if ever there was. He married a former Spice Girl, became a professional model, cosies up to the cream of Hollywood, spoofed Bond, no less, in a sensational closing sequence for Olympics 2012, and has played himself in three ‘Goal’ movies. He even appeared in an episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ for Comic Relief. What more do you want: jam on it?

PELE

The most recognisable player in footballing history is perhaps best known, as an actor, for ‘Escape to Victory’, in which he taught Sir Michael Caine a trick or three about field tactics. He also gave it his all in ‘A Minor Miracle’ and ‘Hotshot.’ Not a lot of people know that.

IAN WRIGHT

The former Arsenal and West Ham United star turned radio and TV presenter appeared in ‘Gun of the Black Sun’, a flop flick in which he played a Brit gangster (and was the best thing in it).

PAUL BREITNER

The international German player has starred in two action adventure films. In the 1976 Spaghetti Western ‘Potato Fritz’, he played a frontier soldier. A decade later, he starred in ‘Kunyonga – Mord in Afrika’. Yes, well.

CARLO ANCELOTTI

The former Italian midfielder turned Real Madrid coach, who is due to start at Bayern Munich this summer, flirted with a career in acting in the 1980s. Remember ‘The World of Don Camillo’? Best not.

ALLY McCOIST

The Scottish soccer star appeared in ‘a Shot at Glory’, playing a, er, high-flying footballer. The movie featured perhaps the worst Scottish accent of all time, from Robert Duvall.

ERIC CANTONA

The Gallic legend of Manchester United made a triumphant leap onto the silver screen. He has appeared in two dozen movies, most of them French, including the Oscar-winner ‘Elizabeth’. He even played himself, in 2009’s ‘Looking for Eric’. Oo, ah.

“Football Heroes” airs Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 12.30pm. David Beckham features on Sunday 20th March at 8.30am and then 9.30am in “David Beckham: Rise of” and “David Beckham: Unwrapped”

To see our full schedule click here.

March 8, 2016
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FOOTBALL HEROES

Is modern football sport or entertainment?  Perhaps the answer lies in the evolution of the ways in which football is now watched – not to mention the […]

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