Mike Rowbottom: You can buy the club, but money can't buy you love in football

The scorn which greeted the recent sale of one of Rolf Harris's paintings to an art collector in the United States for £95,000 said a lot about our popular prejudice.

The story was all the more perfect for allowing us to mock not just one, but two of our favourite targets - crackpot Australian beardies and know-nothing Americans with more money than sense.

Never mind that the Australian in question started out as an artist. Never mind that the picture was - judging by the reproductions carried in the papers - rather good.

Harris stands accused of Animal Hospital. He has been a serial children's TV entertainer. He has charted with a wacky version of "Stairway to Heaven". Above all, he has committed "Two Little Boys".

Given this evidence, Harris could be better than Monet and Manet put together and it wouldn't matter. He can never be a proper artist because he's the hyperactive weirdo with the toothy grin who plays with that wobbly-board thing.

We have a strong resistance to those who wish to change course in life or announce themselves as someone quite different from who we thought they were.

Madonna can try all she likes to become a literary lioness. She can write a novel to match Madame Bovary, but it will not be regarded as anything other than the latest diversion of a wealthy pop singer.

John McEnroe's singing voice is no great thing, but he can play the guitar pretty well. He can play a lot better than a lot of people who have made it big in the wonderful world of MTV, and - as he has said himself - breaking into rock and roll was his highest ambition. (Even as he contemplated marrying Patty Smyth, he had it in mind that she would make the ideal singer for his touring although as-yet unsigned band ...)

The thing is, he can't. McEnroe can obviously move on from playing tennis to becoming an acute and amusing observer of the sport for the benefit of television viewers. That's within the popular ambit. The odd cameo part in films such as Mr Deeds, where he plays himself - that's OK too. He could even embrace politics - after all, Clint Eastwood became a conscientious mayor, Sonny Bono as well, and if memory serves, one famous former film star made it all the way to the White House.

But what you can't do if you are an ex-sportsman is become a genuine rock star, notwithstanding the fact that Yannick Noah has apparently sold a fair few records in France. That's just the French for you.

And what you can't do if you are a wealthy, or even immensely wealthy, businessman is become loved in the world of football.

There has already been widespread speculation about Roman Abramovich's motives for investing googles of roubles in Chelsea FC. Some have likened the west London club to a staging post on the edge of a new continent, portraying the Russian oil billionaire as a man laden with furs and firewater. What is he really after?

If it is a financial foothold in a world of new opportunities, it seems Abramovich has secured his ambition. If he wants to become accepted as one of the game's insiders, as a genuine football man, he is wasting his time and his money.

Businessmen who re-invent themselves as the chairmen of football clubs are tolerated for as long as they put the money in. Their cash doesn't buy affection, or loyalty, or respect. All the money in the world will not grant them the status supporters accord to a favoured full-back.

The Portsmouth chairman, Milan Mandaric, made a cute move recently when he announced that no player would wear the No 12 shirt for the club, dedicating it to supporters whom he said were worth an extra man to the team every time they turned out.

But if Teddy Sheringham's goals dry up, and the seaside team drift down to the Premiership's south coast, Mandaric will be as vulnerable to abuse as any other rich investor.

Once a businessman steps outside his normal parameters and establishes himself at the head of one of our great sporting institutions, he might as well be placing his head upon a block. No fat cat at an angry shareholders' meeting will ever lay himself open to such virulent anger and contempt.

Who mourned the passing of Martin Edwards at Manchester United? Daddy's boy who tried to sell out to Sky. Who will weep for Doug Ellis when he is finally persuaded his time is up at Villa Park? Mrs Ellis?

But that's just the English for you.

Coming back to the Rolf Harris thing - I think there could be a way forward, but it would mean him cutting off one of his ears ...

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
filmSony could have made a cult classic
Life and Style
fashionThe essential guide to all the designer Christmas sale dates
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas