Just as England fans must rewrite their fantasy outcomes for World Cup 2012, now that David Beckham will not be wearing the Three Lions, so too must the senior executives at ITV, who were pinning their hopes on having him star in their television coverage.
ITV, which The Independent understands was in negotiations with the footballer for him to appear in the trailers that will accompany the broadcaster's coverage of the tournament, will now hope to engage him in a punditry role. It will face competition from the BBC, which is also interested, and from the American broadcaster ESPN, which made a bid on Sunday evening, shortly after the player was injured while playing for AC Milan against Chievo in Italy. ESPN featured Beckham in its advertising when he moved to America to play for LA Galaxy in 2007.
As ever with Goldenballs, there is set to be a silver lining to the latest dark cloud in the career of a footballing icon, who repeatedly confounds attempts by commentators to write his epitaph. After rupturing his Achilles on Sunday, Beckham will not be dressed in the England colours in South Africa, but his injury will have healed sufficiently for him to be on the plane and working in various other capacities as an ambassador and standard bearer.
Beckham has resisted all previous offers to do punditry but he has never had the opportunity to perform such a role at a World Cup before, and he may be persuaded to contribute in a way that highlights his work for Unicef and for England's bid to stage the World Cup in 2018.
None of this is to belittle Beckham's injury. The player was in tears as he left the pitch and, in a rare moment of allowing the world's photographers to capture his image in a moment of distress, held his head in public view. It was very different from his previous appearance when, as a substitute in a losing Milan side at Manchester United, he had stolen the limelight, yet again, by putting on a scarf in the green and gold colours of the fans movement which is trying to oust United's American owners from Old Trafford.
England manager Fabio Capello is upset at the "massive blow" of a crocked Beckham but the apocalyptic headlines ("World's End" – Daily Mail) do not reflect the player's own future earning prospects. Within hours, branding experts could see the positive side of an apparent calamity. "You could argue that Beckham getting injured is a less risky option for sponsors," said Stephen Cheliotis, chief executive of the Centre for Brand Insight and Analysis. "He could have gone and been past his best and people would have been disappointed. Now there will be an assumption that if Beckham had been there we would have done better." By standing, very publicly, on the sidelines in an ambassadorial role, Beckham can demonstrate the fashion sense that has made him a global style icon.
Privately, those close to Beckham agree. The footballer is preparing to bring out his own-brand designer underwear range, buoyed by the success of the smalls he modelled for Armani, and is lining up further Beckham-branded products.
Books have been written about the creation of Brand Beckham – the player, his wife Victoria and the entertainment business guru Simon Fuller jointly own a company called Beckham Brand. Another of the footballer's business vehicles, Footwork Productions, generated nearly £10m from personal sponsorship deals during the year to the end of 2008, though he has since ended deals with Motorola, Armani and the American pen company Sharpie. Beckham still has sponsorship deals with the nutritional food brand Go3 and fragrance company Coty. His biggest deal, by far, is with Adidas. Although he is paid to model the Adidas Originals casual clothing range, he also promotes its Adidas Essentials performance sportswear, meaning his presence on the field is still important to his earning potential. Beckham has his children's football academies, which he is hoping to move out of their base in Greenwich, south London, to tour them around schools and other cities.
It seems certain that these aspects of his business will be damaged by his absence on the pitch in South Africa. The ITV ad campaign looks scuppered too, along with any chance of fresh work with his old sponsor Pepsi, which will advertise heavily around an event sponsored by its rival Coca Cola.
This World Cup was being described yesterday as Beckham's "swan song". Those close to the player believe he has at least three years left of playing at a very high level. Even after the injury, he hopes to play for England again.
So David Beckham will head out to the World Cup as an ambassador for Unicef, as a cheerleader for the England team and the Football Association's bid to stage the tournament in 2018, and possibly as a television pundit. At the same time he will also be working on his rehabilitation.Reuse content