Corny perhaps, but a dream for thousands of besotted fans, and, until now, not terribly likely. But thanks to the intervention of entrepreneur Patrick Cannon and a group of investors, who have spotted a new way to exploit that age-old desire for a brush with the great and the good, a lucky few will have a chance to develop at least a nodding acquaintance with today's top sport stars.
The International Sportsman's Club (ISC), the first branch of which is the successor to Terry Venables's former Scribes club on Kensington High Street, west London, is poised to become not just a hanging-out place for the rich, sporty and famous and their acolytes, but an accessible, trendy and world-renowned brand.
Mr Cannon and his colleagues, who have kept their project relatively low-profile until now, are negotiating with various top hotels and sports personalities to expand the club's remit and establish branches in major cities, starting with Paris, Edinburgh, and a location in the Middle East.
They are also preparing to host the World Cup season in style at Kensington, having recruited celebrity chefs Mick and Nick, the Nosh Brothers, as culinary advisers. They plan a series of culturally themed evenings at the club's 50-seater restaurant, with all matches shown on giant television screens, starting on 10 June.
"We will offer special menus for each country that's playing, and members can take tables of 10," said Margaret Wheeler, one of the club's consultants. "There are lots of people that can't go to Paris, but we'll have international players there as speakers, and when Austria is playing, for instance, we hope to have Austrian companies there. We'll put them at one end of the restaurant and the Tunisians at the other. It all adds to the fun."
Celebrities including Lawrence Dallaglio, Lennox Lewis, Peter Scudamore, Roger Black, Richard Dunwoody, Annabel Croft and Garth Crooks are on the club's committee, and the annual fee for ordinary members ranges from pounds 390 for "gold" membership to pounds 210 for those living more than 100 miles from London. Those under 28 can join for pounds 275. "The club intends to draw its membership mainly, but not exclusively, from the sporting, sports-related and professional worlds," said a spokesman.
Boasting conference facilities for 90 people, the club also hosts meetings of Amicus, a social club, as well as celebrity lunches: Jeffrey Archer is booked in for 6 May. "He's coming to speak to club members informally and he'll probably be talking about his bid to become mayor," said Mrs Wheeler. "At other clubs, business is forbidden, but at the ISC, you can go and meet colleagues and exchange business cards." But star-struck groupies needn't apply for membership, she warns. "If people just come to see the celebrities, it would be frowned upon. They [the sportsmen and women] need to be able to feel they can come in and talk as normal people, without being gawped at."
n For details about membership and World Cup events, call ISC on 0171- 937 3330.Reuse content