Alan Hubbard

Those of us who were in Singapore back in 2005 when London hit the Olympic jackpot will recall how David Beckham was the star turn of the Sebastian Coe roadshow. 

It was the former England football captain’s hand the fawning International Olympic Committee (IOC) bigwigs wanted to shake, his autograph they sought and, had selfies been in vogue, he would have been submerged beneath a sea of iPhones.

To say his presence as an ambassador was instrumental in London winning the 2012 bid is an understatement. Coe and co may not have made it without him, as his lordship has acknowledged.

If Becks was to receive a knighthood surely it was then. But this is now.

It looks as if that particular ship may have sailed. Or to coin another cliché, his copybook has been well and truly blotted with suggestions that he has since been touting for the tap on the shoulder a tad too eagerly.

It has been alleged he has been toadying to the royals and using the many charitable causes he endorses to promote a personal campaign to win a knighthood.

In a series of damning emails scurrilously released by Football Leaks, the sporting equivalent of Wiki Leaks, he apparently accuses the Honours Committee - the sports section which is, ironically, chaired by Lord Coe - of being "unappreciative c****" for its failure to make him Sir David.

Beckham's representatives dismissed the claims, stating that the emails had been "hacked and doctored" from a private account.

David Beckham, who played a key role with London 2012, has been embroiled in an email scandal ©Getty Images
David Beckham, who played a key role with London 2012, has been embroiled in an email scandal ©Getty Images

The cache of emails include allegations that Beckham, an ambassador for Unicef, demanded £6,685 ($8,300/€7,800) from the charity for a business class flight for him to attend an event in Asia, even though his sponsors had provided a private jet.

Football Leaks claimed Beckham admitted in emails that his charity work was part of a conscious effort to win an honour.

Football Leaks also claimed the 41-year-old reacted angrily when friend and PR advisor Simon Oliveira suggested he put $1 million (£800,000/€945,000) into a prize-giving Unicef dinner in Shanghai.

Beckham allegedly replied: "I don't want to put my personal money into this cause. 

"To pour this million into the fund, is like putting my own money in. If there was no fund, the money would be for me. This f****** money is mine."

Beckham - said to be worth an estimated £280 million ($350,000/€330,000) - allegedly wrote an email to Mr Oliveira furious that Welsh classical singing star Katherine Jenkins had been handed an OBE after he missed out on a knighthood in 2013.

The Sun claim he wrote: "Katherine Jenkins OBE for what? Singing at the rugby and going to see the troops plus taking coke. F****** joke".

It has also emerged that Beckham was on the verge of becoming Sir David in the 2014 New Year's Honours list until a secret "red flag" warning from HM Revenue and Customs sunk his nomination. Beckham's alleged involvement in a tax avoidance scheme had scuppered his hopes.

All of this seems to have been designed to suggest that sport's Mr Nice Guy in private has a nasty streak, something which much of the British media has not been slow to publicise, thus engaging, as do the public, in pushing the icons they have helped create off the podium. It seems to be a national sport.

In recent months Lord Coe himself has been the subject of an apparent media campaign to have him ousted from his new role as head of world athletics over his knowledge - or lack of it - of both the Russian doping scandal and corruption within the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

At least, this is what some close to him seem to think, convinced it is little short of a vendetta. There seems little substance for this.

Yet it does seem that the knives are out big-time for sporting nobility. The former head of British Cycling, Sir Dave Brailsford, now chief of Team Sky, and the multi-decorated Olympian Sir Bradley Wiggins, are both the subjects of intensive probing by the media and Parliament over the possible employment of medical stimulants for therapeutic use. 

It has even been hinted that if wrongdoing is proven, those knighthoods should be revoked.

Sir Bradley Wiggins is among those to have faced questions from the press ©Getty Images
Sir Bradley Wiggins is among those to have faced questions from the press ©Getty Images

However the argument by those involved in therapeutic use exemption would seem to be a comparison with tax avoidance, which is lawful, and tax evasion, which is not. 

Yes, we would love to know what was in that mysterious jiffy bag couriered to Britain’s first Tour de France winner in the French Alps in June 2011. It certainly wasn’t jelly babies, but so far investigations have proved fruitless despite the relentless press campaign which has turned a road race into a pursuit.

I am not knocking that. In many ways such journalistic commitment is commendable. It is our job to seek the truth and without the freedom to do so many of sports' skulduggeries, not least in the treacherous fields of doping and backhanders, would have remained hidden.

But I digress. Back to Brand Beckham.

In his case we might question whether the media hue and cry has gone OTT.

Like us all, Beckham surely is entitled to express his disappointment, however strongly or unpalatable, in private without it being exposed.

I have met him only once, when he was exceedingly pleasant, and certainly have no axe to grind.

But - as with the late and disgracefully snubbed fellow England captain Bobby Moore - I do feel he is far worthier of a knighthood than some of the cokeheads, conmen and charlatans who have found, or bought, their way into Buckingham Palace to kneel before Her Maj.

And, as Beckham himself allegedly said, some subsequently have proved to be "unappreciative c****".