|By DAMIEN SOUNESS
New Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop has a lot to learn if he thinks luring the likes of David Beckham to the A-League is as simple as answering a phone call and finding a suitable club.
Gallop was made to look like a fool on Friday, when he proudly announced that the former England captain and Manchester United superstar was all but headed to Australia for a guest stint at whichever team he fancied.
The governing body went as far to release a statement, declaring "the approach from David Beckham's people is another sign of how much the Hyundai A-League has grown in stature on a global basis".
But, in just his first week at the head of the organisation, Gallop - the former National Rugby League boss who switched codes at the request of FFA chairman Frank Lowy - remarkably presented hearsay as fact.
In the space of a few hours, the Australian public went from awaiting Beckham's arrival to hearing the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder laugh off any suggestions of a move down under.
Unfortunately for Gallop, Fox Sports - the A-League's host broadcaster - were also largely to blame for the unfounded buzz.
Fox Sports News were first to the punch, featuring the news "David Beckham to play 10-game guest stint in A-League", as if the title winner with Real Madrid and AC Milan was about to clear customs at Sydney Airport.
Gallop then joined presenters Mel McLaughlin and Andy Harper on Fox Sports' Kick Off to discuss which Australian city would appeal most to Beckham, his wife Victoria and their four children.
McLaughlin revealed there were "two official offers on the table so far from Perth Glory and Melbourne Heart", to which Gallop said the speedy efforts of the clubs were "a sign of how exciting it could be".
However, less than an hour earlier, representatives for Beckham had already rubbished the reports in a statement issued to Sky Sports News in England.
"There is always interest from clubs across the world in signing David as a player. However, there are absolutely no plans to play in Australia," a spokesman said.
As for the "official offers" spruiked by McLaughlin and applauded by Gallop, Heart chief executive Scott Munn swiftly tweeted: "Not sure who from Heart. But we certainly haven't tabled any offer."
Despite the rebuttals, Gallop showed great naivety as he continued to outline the benefits of having Beckham playing in the same competition as Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono.
"I spoke to the player's agent today and said to him that it would be fantastic," Gallop told Mel and Andy.
Spoke to the player's agent? Really?
Lou Sticca, the sports management consultant who negotiated to bring Galaxy out to Melbourne last year when Beckham played against Melbourne Victory, is the most likely middle man for any deal in Australia.
Sticca, who should not be confused as Beckham's agent in this situation, admitted the rumours had gotten out of hand following Gallop's appearance on television.
"We have jumped the gun," he tweeted. "I asked the question that is all. Now in space of few hours it has blown all out of proportion."
To rub salt into the wounds, Beckham, who has another year to run on his contract at Los Angeles, dismissed Gallop's claims as he prepares for the second leg of the MLS Western Conference final against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.
"No. Definitely not true," he said.
Gallop said his "intention in my initial few weeks in this job is to do a lot of listening".
Well David, it might pay to be a little more selective in your hearing next time and avoid the risk of embarrassment.