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 ...

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes