Mystery surrounds David Beckham's wages pledge as Paris children's charities are left waiting by PSG
Former England captain joined the French league leaders in January
John Lichfield has been The Independent's man in Paris since 1997, covering French news. Before that, he was the paper's Foreign Editor and he has also worked in Brussels and Washington. In 1999, he was the UK press Awards Foreign Reporter of the year.
Friday 12 April 2013
At the end of January, David Beckham and his new club, Paris Saint-German, made a public promise. All his wages – rumoured to be around €200,000 (£170,000) a week – would go to a children’s charity in the Paris area.
Ten weeks later, the charities, and the children, of Paris are still waiting.
“No decision has yet been made. We are considering various options,” Yann Guerin, the spokesman for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) told The Independent.
Should we expect a decision soon? Mr Guerin could not say. A spokesman for David Beckham says that a decision is likely in the next two or three weeks.
An investigation by The Independent this week has picked up no trace of any attempt by PSG to invite, or study, candidatures by children’s charities in the Paris area. Groups which have written to the club have received only a brief, pro-forma letter in response. No follow-up approaches have so far been made.
PSG is reported to have been “inundated” with requests from associations working with children, not just from the French capital but from all over the world. Sources close to the club, and to Beckham, say that PSG is already acquainted with the work of excellent children’s charities in the Paris area. It has no need to ask for specific projects or information.
Six weeks remain to the end of the French football season and David Beckham’s contract with PSG expires at the end of June. The club would like him to sign again for the 2013-4 season but Beckham has yet to commit himself.
At his introductory press conference at the Parc des Princes on 31 January, Beckham said: “I thought what a great idea it would be, that the salary would go to a children’s charity in Paris… It’s something I’m not sure has been done before, and it’s something I’m very passionate about, children and the charity side of things, and so are the club.”
More than two months later, very little seems to have happened.
“We wrote to them straight away because we have already work for several years with the PSG foundation,” said Malika Tabti, secretary general of Secours Populaire, one of the largest charities in France. “We run several projects for children in the Paris areas, including one which creates sporting opportunities and holidays for deprived youngsters. We could help far more children than we do but we are always short of funds.”
Ms Tabti received a short letter from PSG in early February saying that they would be back in touch. Since then, she has heard nothing,
Is she disappointed at the delay? “This was obviously something decided in a great hurry and it will take time to put into effect,” Ms Tabti said. “After they made so much of the idea publicly, I am sure it will happen eventually. But it’s good that you are reminding them.”
Other children’s groups The Independent spoke to were somewhat less charitable. Martine Brousse is delegate general of La Voix d’Enfant, a nationwide children’s charity umbrella-association, with 12 kids’ projects in the Paris area.
“I can’t say I’m disappointed because it is what I expected,” she said. “I assumed that this was a publicity announcement, rather than anything concrete. I thought all along that if PSG did anything, they would set up their own charity so that they could control everything themselves.”
Sandrine Moutel is spokeswoman for a small charity called “Pas d’enfance sans vacances” – no childhood without holidays. The group gives up to 300 children from the more deprived, racially mixed suburbs of Paris seaside trips and Christmas presents. Its annual budget of €50,000 a year could be increased fourfold with a single week of David Beckham’s wages.
“Tell PSG and David Beckham we know lots of children who would be delighted to hear from them, “ Ms Moutel said.
A spokesman for David Beckham told The Independent: “We have had hundreds of requests from Paris and far beyond. It takes time to go through all the possibilities and make sure that a seven-figure sum is spent in the best possible way.”
“I think we will be in a position to identify projects in Paris and maybe more widely in France by the end of this month.”
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