Sports Stars: Entitled or to be Titled?

The revelation that David Beckham views the honours system as merely a bonus for his brand has led to accusations that, for the famous, it is not so much an honour bestowed upon them, but a brand enhancement.

The leaks of his expediential attitude came as a shock to many, as Beckham had always been renowned for his patriotism and charity work. But he has still been a huge force for good, both in expanding the world’s game of football and helping fight against poverty.

Does the fact that there were ulterior motives behind his ventures really deem his philanthropy nothing more than a charitable guise? I believe his deeds outweigh his vanity, but regardless of your view or how you see the honours system in general – an outdated relic of our imperial past or a tradition to be proud of – it is undeniable that the merits of its role in modern society are being discussed more than ever.

This has extended to sport, especially, and a prime example of the difference in opinion came when Scotland’s very own, Sir Andrew Murray, received a knighthood this year. At 29, he is already one of the greatest sporting exports Britain has ever produced, but it still engendered a debate as to whether active athletes should be discounted, or even more radically, whether all athletes past and present should be made immune completely.

The reasons? Well, the British always like to keep their stars more grounded than most countries, make sure they don’t forget their roots.

Another factor is the recent allegations of unscrupulous behaviour with regards to the conduct of recently knighted duo Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sir Mo Farah.

The claims made against them were met with less than convincing explanations, yet, even under this cloud of suspicion, the latter’s competitors will now know him with a new three-lettered prefix. Not exactly in keeping with the unwritten contract of a level playing field.

By the very nature of their occupation, sports people are already in a privileged position. International representation, fortune and fame are all perks of elite professional sport, but why should that prohibit them from being recognised for their achievements?

Those who do rise to the top of their respective sports only do so because of years of sacrifice and dedication. They shouldn’t be denied the distinction just because they had the ability and mental strength to do a job that millions of others can only dream of.

Olympians aspire to fly their country’s flag their whole life. The description of why someone is made a knight or a dame is set out on the government’s website: “This is awarded for having a major contribution in any activity, usually at national level. Other people working in the nominee’s area will see their contribution as inspirational and significant, requiring commitment over a long period of time.”

Are we now to say that Sir Chris Hoy and Dame Catherine Grainger, for example, with their twelve Olympic medals, don’t meet this criteria?

It is a preposterous argument which is peddled by people with an inferiority complex.

They point to the fact that the annual Pride of Britain awards, which is a great display of human decency, should closer resemble the Queen’s honours list, but it doesn’t need to be a binary choice between ordinary citizens and those in the public eye.

Politicians, who are employed to work on behalf of the people, are the group people should be arguing are made exempt in order to stop David Cameron’s resignation honours list debacle happening again. It was cronyism at its corrupt worst, devaluing the very concept of it being a system based on merit.

The cult of celebrity may have extended into the realm of sport, but they are no less deserving of any title they are given than the average person on the street.

Featured image – Getty Images