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Marketing & PR: Media Types - Another day, another soccer star, but the same old kicking from hacks.

Byline: Phil Parkin

Last time around I found myself offering some thoughts on a former Manchester United football player -I'm on the same theme this week, only this time I'm on about George Best, rather than David Beckham.

And the reason I'm writing about poor old George is that he has had rather a torrid time in the press lately, as most people will have noticed.

Mind you, how torrid a time actually depends on what newspaper you read -and what papers George does or doesn't get on with.

He seems to like middle market newspapers -there he was a fortnight ago featured in one of them, sitting quite happily in the bar of the Chequers in Walton on the Hill, with his glass of 'water'.

His mood changed, however, when a photographer from the downmarket News of the World turned up. It seems there was a bit of a scuffle between George and the snapper, when the former objected to having his photo taken.

So why was George so upset about the News of the World? I decided to check out a copy of the newspaper that day, just to see what it is like these days and whether it was still worthy of its News of the Screws moniker. Well, I have to report that it's definitely still a scandal sheet -reading through it is rather like poring over an extended version of page three of The Sun. In fact, there doesn't seem to be anything else in it apart from salacious gossip, boobs and soccer, which is perhaps why George got a bit twitchy.

Perhaps he envisaged a story in which the Screws wrote about his visit to the Chequers and used all three of the above -what about if they suggested that the 'Antabuse' pellets in his stomach had an unfortunate side-effect if combined with alcohol, ie the growth of a pair boobs?

You can just see the headline: 'Tipple turns to nipple for ex-Man U star -now it's George Brest!'

OK, joking apart, one has to ask what right the Screws or indeed any other newspaper has to muscle in a guy's privacy when he is just sitting in the bar of a pub minding his own business? The obvious intention, for some at least, was a bit of sensationalism along the lines of 'Best back on booze -shock horror'. Well, it sells newspapers, doesn't it?

Of course, part of the story inevitably became what an insult it was to the person who donated Best's new liver that he was (allegedly) drinking again.

Actually, I don't believe the donor could possibly mind -he or she clearly had no further need for the organ.

As to whether George deserved the transplant, I say 'yes', not least because of the all the taxes the Exchequer has raked in from him during his life (and that includes all the revenue garnered from all the alcohol he has consumed).

Fortunately, we don't yet live in a state where the treatment you get on the NHS depends on whether the powers-that-be approve of your lifestyle or not.

And anyway, now the liver is in George's body, it is surely his to decide what to do with.

Going back to the News of the World, I didn't actually get the newspaper in which his story appeared -I wonder if anyone can enlighten me whether they picked up a much better tale, namely the butcher across the road from the Chequers who put out a board advertising 'Best liver'? I think we should toast his enterprise (with a glass of 'water', of course).

Phil Parkin is a director of Headline Communications
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 21, 2003
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