Did Joe Lycett really shred £10,000 in protest at the Qatar World Cup?

Stunt to raise awareness and shame David Beckham was ‘total b******* from the start’, stand up revealed

Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 15 December 2022 09:41 GMT
Joe Lycett 'shreds £10,000' as David Beckham continues Qatar ambassador role

Comedian Joe Lycett is well on his way to becoming a national treasure, increasingly beloved for his pointed stunts exposing corporate wrongdoing and for his ruthless satirising of Conservative politicians like Liz Truss and Nadine Dorries.

Ahead of World Cup 2022 in Qatar this winter, Lycett took to social media to challenge Manchester United and England legend David Beckham over his decision to accept a lucrative ambassadorial role with the hosts despite their highly problematic human rights record.

Lycett was, like many people, particularly incensed by the criminalisation of homosexuality in Qatar so posted a video on Instagram on Sunday 13 November, a week before the World Cup was due to open, in which he challenged Beckham to renounce his endorsement deal.

“This is a message to David Beckham. I consider you, along with Kim Woodburn and Monty Don, to be a gay icon,” the comedian said.

“You’re the first premiership footballer to do shoots with gay magazines like Attitude, to speak openly about your gay fans, and you married a Spice Girl, which is the gayest thing a human being can do.

“But now it’s 2022. And you signed a reported £10m deal with Qatar to be their ambassador during the FIFA World Cup.

“Qatar was voted as one of the worst places in the world to be gay. Homosexuality is illegal, punishable by imprisonment and, if you’re Muslim, possibly even death.”

Lycett told the retired footballer that, because he had “always talked about the power of football as a force for good”, he had decided to give Beckham “a choice”, which was really more of an ultimatum.

He said: “If you end your relationship with Qatar, I’ll donate this £10,000 of my own money, as a grand for every million you’re reportedly getting, to charities that support queer people in football.

“However, if you do not, by midday next Sunday [20 November] I will throw this money into a shredder just before the opening ceremony of the World Cup and stream it live on a website I’ve registered called benderslikebeckham.com.”

He continued: “Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon, will be shredded. You’ll be forcing me to commit a crime. Although, even then, I reckon I get off more lightly than I would if I got caught wacking off a lad in Doha.

“The choice is yours. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Joe Lycett claims he'll shred £10,000 if David Beckham does not drop Qatar partnership

The proposition caused a media sensation and, as the week progressed, Lycett posted regular updates on social media, saying he had still not heard from Beckham or his representatives, reminding the ex-winger that the clock was ticking.

Beckham never did address Lycett’s threat directly but did say on the Thursday [17 November] that he hoped the World Cup would provide “a platform for progress”.

Sure enough, when the big day came, Lycett appeared in another video at noon in which he could be seen, sporting a fancy tulle jacket in the rainbow colours of the Pride flag, tossing piles of bank notes into an industrial shredder before turning to the camera, curtsying and walking away without a word.

The public reaction to the gesture was divided, with some applauding Lycett for his uncompromising approach and others deploring the waste of cash that could have been used to support LGBT+ charities instead.

Then, a day later, Lycett appeared in a final video to reveal that he had not actually destroyed any real money after all.

“I haven’t quite told you the whole truth, because the truth is the money that went into the shredder was real, but the money that came out was fake,” he explained.

“I would never destroy real money, I would never be so irresponsible. In fact, the £10,000 had already been donated to LGBTQ+ charities before I even pressed send on the initial tweet last week.

“I never expected to hear from you, it was an empty threat designed to get people talking. In many ways, it was like your deal with Qatar, David – total b******* from the start.”

After delivering that shaming rebuke, Lycett revealed one final twist.

“There is one thing I’ll shred,” he told Beckham. “This is your Attitude magazine cover from June 2002, the first ever cover of a gay magazine with a Premier League footballer on it.

“I asked Attitude if I could shred it, and they were more than happy to oblige.”

He duly fed the historic issue into a paper shredder.

Joe Lycett reveals he didn't shred £10,000

Speaking about the stunt almost three weeks later to The News Agents podcast, Lycett told Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel that Beckham’s representatives had since reached out to him but that he was “not satisfied” with where negotiations had led, claiming they were only interested in getting the matter “to go away” and had not offered donations.

He also appeared on ITV’s Lorraine to elaborate on why he did it.

“This is the thing, I’m open for countries to be diverse and to have their own beliefs and all of these things,” he told host Lorraine Kelly.

“The world’s an interesting place, there’s all sorts of diversity in the world and I’m not against that.

“But I think as a baseline, I think killing people and jailing them for being who they are, should be condemned across the board wherever it happens. It happens far too much across the world. And it happens here sometimes, so we should always call it out.”

He went on to say that there are “lots of really good things about Qatar” but “the thing where they want to kill me [is] not a good thing”.

“I’d love to not die actually, Lorraine, because then I’d stop coming on the Lorraine programme,” he joked. “I love being on Lorraine! It’d be weird having me as a corpse on this show.

“So I’ve not heard anything from [Beckham]. I’m very polite and a very nice young man… I’d still love to speak to him and I promise I’ll be nice as well.

“Hopefully we’ll have a bit more discussions with his people and hopefully we’ll get somewhere with that. So I’m holding out hope. There’s still time for him to change his mind. The World Cup has not yet finished.”

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