Intended publication: FourFourTwo Headline: Fornicating footballers and the women scorned. Sell: Footballers feature on the front pages of newspapers daily, but who is putting them there and why? FFT investigates... PR „gurus‟ are the force behind most tabloid headlines. Headlines related to footballers. But whose job is it to expose their lurid-sexual antics and plaster them on the front pages? Max Clifford, the self-proclaimed kiss-and-tell King. He has been in the game for over 40 years netting millions from his saucy sales. Thanks to Clifford and his posse at „Max Clifford Associates Limited‟, and the rebranding of a well known red-top to feature sex, sport and contests, sports journalism has catapulted. In the past it was not regarded as real journalism. Newspapers sectioned off the smallest, dingiest corner for sports reporters and little money was ploughed in to it. Sport has now spread its‟ legs, like wannabe WAGs, from the back, to the front page. Clifford‟s revelations are spinning the sports world off its axis, into a new age of scandal, sex and lies. David Beckham‟s alleged mistress... Clifford represented. John Terry‟s alleged mistress....Clifford represented. Ryan Giggs‟s alleged mistress... Clifford represented. He makes a living out if what was once known as, „dressing room banter.‟ It is not just WAGs he works for. On his website he proudly states, “Max Clifford Associates has been responsible for over 170 front page exclusives within the last 18 months. Our unique relationship with newspaper editors and key players in the media has been built and nurtured by Max over many years ensuring that we as a company can broker your story for the highest possible price whilst retaining ultimate control.”
News worthiness is key to a story being printed. Newspapers are only producing what people want to read. They want something shocking, about someone they know, doing something they are familiar with. Naughty behaviour of footballers is often shocking. But razzmatazz one-liners sell stories.
This unfortunately ties perfectly with the pervasiveness of wannabe WAGs and reality TV, a genre where the newest form of celebrity has been reared.
PR‟s like Clifford have uncompromised control over what is written. Editors are desperate to sell their publication and they need A-list celebrities for this. The only way to do this is to conform to the puppet master‟s demands. Editors have conflicting interests to publish what is right and true, against what will actually sell. But ultimately it is: No price too big. No lie too small, to get the highest sales figures possible. Clifford feeds the public‟s repressed sordid lust for off-the-field-follies. However his “unique relationship” with the media is not a comfortable one. Often admitting to fabrications, he has strong opinions about strong subjects such as racism in football. But you do not have to be liked to be successful. Just look at Brian Clough. Clifford‟s company manages communication between the public and the celebrity, and the media is the middle-man. They are responsible for the effective relations between them. The media and the celebrity would be lost without publicists, which iswhy he is a force to be reckoned with. „Twittergate‟ Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming caused controversy, revealing a Premier League footballer‟s sexual antics in the House of Commons. The fracas sparked further debate over privacy laws, as he revealed who the fornicating footballer of the fortnight was. He, who was not to be named, had been outed in cyberspace. It
demonstrated the lunacy of the outdated privacy laws that this country has. In the days of Twitter and Facebook, it is impossible to police said laws. Imogen Thomas was the latest in a long-line of home wreckers, when she boarded the WAG train and slept with the footballer in question. She once claimed that the attention she received after „Twittergate‟ almost ruined her life. Thank God Clifford was there to help her get as much money she could out of it. In an era where nothing is considered off limits and social networking has more significance than print, what is really private, how can you stop the public opinion, and the lust for scandal and sex stories? Clifford is merely a controller of privacy, drip feeding the journalist‟s natural desires to appease the public‟s torrid desires. Women who wish to sleep their way to the top may not have that many brain cells to cope with the media-frenzy that ensues so they need sleaze-merchants like Max to manage it for them. The Family Man Some have said that Hitler was an evil, yet intelligent man. One could make this assumption about Clifford. Having left school at 15, his path into PR dictatorship was not necessarily well lit. He grew up in a modest house in Wimbledon and his first job was in a department store. His calling came when he had his first success with record label EMI, helping to publicise the Beatles song „Love me do‟. So when he set up his own PR company at the age of 27, he took advantage of footballers new found status and made them famous for playing the field in their “private” lives. His website states that he has represented everyone from Simon Cowell to property agents in the Caribbean. Yet the man with the brillo-pad hair has become just as famous as his clients. When Veronica Perroncel issued her statement about her affair with John Terry, who did she have by her side, to guide, support and comfort her?
Was it her father, was it her mother or was it her lover? No, it was Clifford, the money grabbing “guru” who always wants a piece of the pie. He may as well have the famous Warhol phrase tattooed on his forehead, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”. What Warhol failed to mention was that you do not have to posses any kind of talent for this to happen. Thanks to arrogant sycophants like Clifford you can become famous for simply opening your legs. And thanks to the branding of sports stars you can be famous just for having them be sick all over your favourite silk sheets, after a moment of lack-luster love making. Society‟s moral compass has turned south. Clifford is the clever one for cashing in on it. ''If you've got a story and the media want your story, then you should make money as well as they do,” he told the New York Times, “[I‟m] only playing a game whose rules are embedded in a culture that gives extraordinary power to the news media.” In a show for Fame TV in December 2006, Clifford gave his tips on gaining fame: Appear on a reality series, enter a talent contest, be abysmal on a talent show, gain fame by association, date a celebrity, flaunt your body and finally, be in the right place at the right time. Celebrity commentator Bob Franklin has said, “Celebrity is so often regarded as the epitome of the inauthenticity in popular culture”. Celebrity is a façade for the masses to divulge in. Tittle-tattle publications sell themselves on the latest soirees of footballers and girls famous for getting their bodies out. Images and actions of so called celebrities are manipulated to fill the space in between adverts. The rise in male grooming has meant that footballers are not just able to sell the game, but also the latest „Head and Shoulders‟ shampoo. A footballer is the modern sign of masculinity, wealth and success and they don‟t even have to be good looking, but it is
like scoring a winning goal in injury time if they are. And the goal-scoring bonus they get for it is not half bad. The Good Guy Clifford has a lack of interest in the juicy details and sees his job more as a moral standard setter. Speaking of Rebecca Loos‟ “affair” with Beckham he has commented on his complete disinterest in what they had done. He is corner stone of the media community. Apparently it is his job to out the dirty deeds and hypocritical goings-on that mar the under-belly of the public-sphere. He has said that he helps unmask pedophiles, reveals government hypocrisy and sends people to jail. As well this he deals with the press for companies like Syco (Simon Cowell‟s media channel). All in a day‟s work. Such is the extent of Clifford‟s influence, people, magazines and TV shows approach him as an “expert” in his field. He has been asked how he would create Amanda Knox‟s image, admitting the PR frenzy surrounding her would have been in motion prior to the verdict. "I am sure if Raoul Moat could have sold his story somebody would have bought it," he admitted to the Evening Standard. It is not just sleazy footballers and their mistresses that he has the monopoly on, any socially significant dirty-deed sells. The shrewd practitioner passed on the opportunity of representing Michael Jackson after his child abuse trial in 2005. He said it would be the hardest job in PR, second to representing Saddam Hussein. “I've created false images for people all my life,'' Mr. Clifford declared to the New York Times. ''I'm quite happy to make up stories about someone to create an image.'' It was the revolution of tabloid newspapers that blurred the division between public and private lives. Bolshie wide-boys such as Clifford have the scope to create images of footballers and make it front page news. The growth of satellite television, sport in
pubs, magazines such as FFT and the extension of sports stars fame beyond the confines of their sport have all contributed to the new sporting celebrity. Clifford has cashed in on this and made sure that they stay front page news.
The Max machine has been written about and aired on television. Clifford could have an Oscar in performing „media mogul‟. His office a container of self-appreciation, chair elevated high, eluding dominance. The broad shoulders, slouched posture and arrogant smirk etched on his face paint a picture of man at the top of his game. He carries the secrets of the celebrity world, deals with the high pressures of his job, and has influenced the biggest selling publications for over four decades. Yet the image he does not want to divulge is that of his family. He keeps the loss of his wife in 2003 and more recently his battle against testicular cancer close to his chest. He waits for the perfect opportunity to play the disabled daughter , charity man card and keeps his suburban-Surrey abode well disguised, revealing it at the most opportune moment. One wonders, since Max Clifford is practically a celebrity himself now, when will the poker face fall?
The tabloid culture has encouraged surveillance of sports stars. What David Beckham, Ashley Cole and John Terry do when they step on the field for 90 minutes requires some amount of discipline. When sports stars are seen to be behaving badly off the field the hunger for society to know has been fed by headlines like, „ Becks, Sex and Me‟, and „Cheryl: I Can‟t Forgive‟. We have now come to expect it. Clifford does not write the headlines, he creates them. He expertly plays the media, selling and shaping some of the biggest stories this century has seen. You don‟t have to like him though.
BIBLIOGRAPHY BBC NEWS, 2006. Max Clifford Offers Guide to Fame [online] [viewed 27 November 2011]. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6168077.stm BECKER, J., BOWLEY, G AND D.V NATTA, JR., 2010. Hack Attack! The New York Times Magazine, 5 September, 30 BROWN, C., 2005. A Very Modern Sort of Saint. The Spectator, 8 October, 55 CABLE, M., 1997. Life is one big game; My Favourite Shop. The Times, 20 September, 4 CHITTENDEN, M., C. SARLER, 1992. Kiss and Tell; Max Clifford. Sunday Times, 13 September, 11 CLIFFORD. M., 2011. Max Clifford Associates Limited Press and Public Relations Consultants [online] [viewed 27 November 2011]. Available from: http://maxclifford.com CONBOY, M., 2004. Journalism: A Critical History. London: Sage DELANEY, S., 2011. Warning: Second Season Syndrome Can Seriously Damage Your Career. FourFourTwo, September, 104-105 GARSIDE, J., 2000. When the PR‟s the Star. Campaign, 10 March, 38 GOFFMAN, E., 1969. The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life. Harmondsworth: Penguin HIGGINS, R., 2008. Max Clifford, the supremo of spin: A life in the Day. Sunday Times, 1 June, 58 HOLLAND, P., 2008. The Politics of the Smile: “Soft news” and the sexualisation of the popular press. In: A. BIRESSI and H. NUNN eds. The Tabloid Culture Reader .Maidenhead: Open University Press, pp. 205 - 220
HOLMES, S., 2010. Dreaming a Dream: Susan Boyle and Celebrity Culture. The Velvet Light Trap [online], 65.1 [viewed 27 November 2011]. Available from: Project Muse HYUK, L.J., 2009. News values, Media Coverage, and Audience Attention: An Analysis of Direct and Mediated Casual Relationships. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly [online], 86.1, 175 [viewed 27 November 2011]. Available from: ABI Inform JONES, N., 2011. Max Clifford and celebrity journalism: the “holier than thou” sage on media ethics [online] [viewed 27 November 2011]. Available from: http://www.nicholasjones.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=63 &Itemid=4 – LONDON EVENING STANDARD, 2011. Amanda Knox „could earn £20m from selling her story‟ [online] [viewed 27 November 2011]. Available from: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23994157-amanda-knox-could-earnpound-20m-from-selling-her-story.do LYALL, S., 2006. Sex! Sleaze! Filth! Britain‟s Scandal Kind sells all! The New York Times, 28 January, 4 SHEPARD, A.C., 1997. Celebrity Journalists. American Journalism Review [online], 19.7, 26 [viewed 27 November 2011]. Available from: Academic OneFile SPIERS, P., 1989. We'll try to cut out the bafflegab if you refrain from making us sound like Donald Duck. The Quill [online], 77.5, 38 [viewed 27 November]. Available from: Academic OneFile THOMPSON, J.B., 2011. Shifting Boundaries of Public and Private Life. Theory, Culture and Society [online], 28. 4, 49-70 [viewed 27 November 2011]. Available from: SAGE journals TURNER, G., 2004. Understanding Celebrity. London: Sage WHANNEL, G., 2002. Media Sports Stars Masculinities and Moralities. London: Routledge When Louis Met Max Clifford (clips), 2002 [online video]. Directed by: Alicia KERR. UK: BBC2 [viewed 27 November 2011]. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=max+clifford+louis+theroux&aq=1& oq=max+cli –