Make me a WAG
Want to bag a top Premiership footballer? Now there's a website to match you with your very own David Beckham. Tanya Sweeney meets the brains behind becomeawag.com
If you think WAGs have been having a tumultuous time of it recently, spare a thought for those on an even lower rung of the celebrity ladder: the wannabe WAGs. The kiss-and-tell girls who aspire to WAG status have become something of a maligned species, owing in part to recent sordid revelations involving Wayne Rooney and call girl Jennifer Thompson.
Even after the raging storm of cheating footballer headlines that has marked the summer of 2010, there's no shortage of girls wanting to join the swelling ranks of WAGs.
A footballer who can stay faithful to a partner seems to be an endangered species, but, make no mistake, being a WAG is now seen as a viable career choice for some women. And if you're a manicurist, dancer or low-level model trying to eke out a living on minimum wage, a Cinderella-style life (complete with style-icon status) might seem a fairly reasonable job option.
If looking over one's shoulder constantly is part of the job spec, so be it.
Bearing in mind that, according to a 2008 survey, 2.4pc of British girls between 13 and 19 aspire to WAGdom as a career, Daniel Hall has set up a wily business venture. The 22-year-old Essex boy launched his site www.becomeawag.com last month, ostensibly in a bid to help these girls achieve that very dream.
The premise of the site is that girls sign up (for a €23 one-off fee) by responding to a set of questions and attaching a picture. This is then matched with the requirements of footballers. If a girl's information closely matches what a particular footballer is looking for then their profile is forwarded on to the footballer and a date may be arranged.
"I left uni after completing a Masters degree two months ago and I knew that I wanted to get into business," he explains. "I'd run a business before college and I knew I wanted to start something that was cheap because I had no money. That was a big factor in starting the site.
"The WAG thing was quite big in media, even before the Wayne Rooney thing happened. I read a story where girls were queueing up outside a nightclub and were fighting to get in. I knew there was a market for this out there."
His first port of call was to contact the footballers in his realm -- around 150 in all -- from the Premier League, the Championship League and League One and Two.
"I know a footballer in West Ham through a friend, and then asked for contacts, got phone numbers and email addresses, and found some footballers through his Facebook profile and messaged them," Hall recalls. "I wrote to them and said, 'I know you get girls coming up to you in nightclubs all the time, but what I am proposing is different. If you go to a nightclub you're not getting an idea of the personality of the girl and you might not even be compatible'.
"One footballer I know is really religious, and you're not going to ask a girl in a nightclub, 'are you religious?'" he adds. "This way, players can find out that sort of information immediately. A few got back to me saying they weren't into the whole WAG thing, while others didn't want to find a girlfriend on a website, and that's fair enough. But some liked the idea of finding someone that's compatible."
Yet there is a need to state the obvious: these footballers can walk into London's top bars and clubs and find no shortage of ardent, fragrant admirers. A staff member in Liverpool's Newz night spot said recently: "Even when a reserve-team player arrives, the girls go completely wild; they're all over him. It's ridiculous. You really have to see it to believe it."
So why go through the relative ignominy of using a dating site if you're an in-demand sportsman?
"One footballer I know hates going to clubs and hates the attention," maintains Hall. "If someone recognises him, he'll deny being who he is and tell them he's a painter/ decorator. The site gives people like him anonymity and room to find a girl he likes. He's seen what girls do to footballers and seen how they reacted. After a while they just want to go out without getting approached every 10 seconds.
"I'd heard how a number of girls had slept with the bouncers of some clubs so that they could get into the VIP section and meet footballers. Some had slept with 20 or 30 men. I'm just offering something safer and easier for the girls."
As to what qualities the players are searching for, Hall notes: "One footballer has said he was looking, for example, for someone who was bubbly, confident, individual, someone who wouldn't be clinging on to him. We haven't found a match yet but hopefully there will be someone out there."
To date, Hall has signed 15 footballers to the site: two from Chelsea, two from West Ham, two from Fulham, and others from West Bromwich, Watford and Southampton clubs. So far, 60 girls have signed up to the site; none of whom, Hall claims, fit the mould of your typical WAG or WAG wannabe.
"I've found the complete opposite, in fact," he says. "I was definitely expecting that kind of girl, but the applicants are all going well in their careers and are fitness trainers, teachers, that kind of thing. Age-wise, I thought the girls would mainly be 18, but most of them are 24-28.
"I get a lot of different answers when I ask that question, and I know people can lie, but they say they're looking for a bit of excitement and want to just have the experience of going out with a footballer rather than the fame and fortune. They've been dating other men and want to try something different.
"I was expecting a few girls who might not be ... well, up to scratch, but the demographic has been really interesting," Hall continues. "The website got attention in the British broadsheets and the foreign press, and not so much yet in the, well, target audience papers like the tabloids."
Despite the attention that the world's media is giving the website, Hall has encountered a few detractors. "I've had not nice emails from a few feminists, people who think it's morally wrong to match girls with footballers," he admits. "And someone else emailed to say they wanted to kill me."
As part of the sign-up process, girls need to answer a number of questions. Among them are: 'What's the most adventurous thing you've ever done?', 'Do you have any hobbies?', 'What is your biggest achievement in life so far?' and 'What makes you stand out from the crowd?'.
It's hardly the best way to gauge someone's fully rounded personality, I venture. Are these really the questions that Hall thinks will grease the wheels of any potential matchmaking?
"In terms of what footballers want, yes," he states. "We brought the Myers-Briggs personality test into it. No girl would want to answer 100 questions, so I cut them down to make it simple, quick and easy. The one question, 'What would you do to become a WAG?' will hopefully weed out the girls that will go running to the papers with stories on the footballers."
There have been no shortage of people criticising the site, and Hall addresses this in the FAQ section of the site, noting, 'We can guarantee that while the site is running, those who sign up have a chance to go on a date with a footballer'. Jumping on the coattails of a media whirlwind he may be, but I still get the vague impression that, amid Hall's get-rich-quick dreams, a streak of altruism exists.
"I do what I do to make money and I'm starting out in business, so I'd like to make enough money to go onto my next venture," he explains. "But I'd love to be able to say by the end of the year that I got seven or eight footballers into long-term relationships. It'd be great to think that some of them might even end in marriage."