As of today Sport Relief 2012 has raised over £52 million for good causes. I can’t help but admire all of the people who spend hours jogging, training to run their mile, cajoling friends and family into sponsoring them in the hope that they might raise twenty quid to give to charity. All those pseudo-intellectuals who claim people are naturally selfish can go and eat their hats. In fact we’ll have a whip round to buy a hat for them, just to add a layer of irony. Yet none of this hides the fact that Sport Relief disgusts me.
First and foremost this is shite television. Not only have we had to endure those endless trailers ‘starring’ Ferne Cotton, we’ve had David Beckham reading from an autocue, and, at one point, we were treated to the sight of Manchester United and England footballers, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, playing a game of table tennis. And unless I’m very much mistaken, Jermain Defoe made an omelette. Go figure.
More pertinently, is it really the case that in the twenty-first century we can’t think of a better, fairer, more equitable way to fix society’s ills than making poor people cough up what little money they have left at the end of the month? And make us run for the privilege? To add insult the BBC wheel out a series of millionaire sporting superstars to ladle on the emotional blackmail, telling us that a donation of £5 really isn’t that much to ask. And it wouldn’t be if you were paid so much that you could afford three houses. Rooney is currently ‘worth’ £25 million, while poor old Ferdinand might have to spend next season raking in £175,000 per week playing in China. All of the self-congratulatory backslapping that accompanies the celebs is as repellent as it is illogical. Oh, and writing as someone who’s known a tax inspector or two, don’t for a moment think that every footballer turning up on these things is giving their time free of charge…
Of course this all came at the end of a week that saw George Osborne’s budget for the rich. After months of being told that we’re all in this together, the top rate of tax will be cut from 50% down to 45%, and corporation tax will fall to 22%. As we digested this news, Sport Relief brought us images of the harrowing experiences of people in Sierra Leonne, and a genuinely moving interview with a grieving mother who was looking for support as she tried to help her children come to terms with the loss of their father. In a strange echo of the budget, David Beckham told us “there’s lots more we can do”, where the 'we' quite obviously meant 'you'. The rich still reap the benefits; the poor still pay the price.
If only the bankers were treated in the same way. Instead of saying “Oops!” and running cap in hand to the government they should be forced to run a series of bring and buy sales to dig themselves out of a hole, with RBS baking muffins and Lloyds TSB holding a raffle. HSBC could show some community spirit and come to the aid of their less well off banking chums. Perhaps they could hold a sponsored silence and we’d give them 50p for every day they went without airing one of their sickeningly pretentious commercials. And Natwest could have a line of overly enthusiastic, clipboard-wielding hipsters on every major high street, telling us that just two pounds a month could help keep Fred Goodwin in his Mercedes for a year. Maybe this’ll happen one day, but don’t bank on it.