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The not-so beautiful game

THERE'S a reason sports broadcaster Gabby Logan's documentary Sexism in Football? had a question mark in the title. It adds a coating of sarcasm that practically invites the response, "No, of course there's no sexism in football!"

Well, provided you don't count that obnoxious tub of lard Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, who recently suggested that women footballers should wear "tighter shorts" to attract more male supporters to their games.

Or, of course, football pundit Andy Gray and his idiotic, grinning partner Richard Keys, whose Neanderthal off-air comments about second match official Sian Massey just before she officiated at a Liverpool v Wolves match saw Gray fired from his Sky Sports job and Keys quitting his the following day. As we learned from leaked footage, this kind of behaviour was more in character than out of it for the dynamic dodos.

Both, by the way, are now working for talkSPORT radio and were last year hawking their two-man show around the corporate after-dinner speaking circuit. Needless to say, neither participated in Logan's programme, although they had been invited to take part.

In fact, there was a notable absence of high-profile male figures. The only contributors who were/are active at the highest levels of the game were player-turned-BBC 5 Live pundit Robbie Savage and current Wales manager Lawrie Sanchez. Maybe the rest are scared to come out as feminists.

Belying his image as a bit of a bonehead, Savage was articulate and, above all else, honest about the sexism that infects the game.

When Logan, who admitted to putting up with years of sexist jibes and sexual innuendo early in her broadcasting career, played devil's advocate by suggesting that such behaviour is perhaps an inevitable by-product of the "dressing room banter", Savage, who works under formidable female producer Jo Tongue at BBC Radio 5 Live, was quick to set her straight. "No, it's ruthless," he said.

Sanchez perceptively pointed out that all 12 executive directors of the Football Association are "male, white and middle-class". This enlightened pair apart, though, Sexism in Football? was largely a litany of the offhand abuses the many women working in the broader spectrum of football -- as match officials, newspaper reporters, TV and radio presenters, match commentators, club executives, marketing and PR representatives -- suffer on a daily basis. These ranged from being barred from press conferences and official club functions, to being asked how many Premiership footballers they've slept with.

It's telling that the highest profile woman in football -- the formidable Karren Brady, former Birmingham City chairwoman and now vice chairman of West Ham -- has never been offered an executive position with the FA.

On the whole, the documentary made for grim, depressing viewing, although it wasn't without its moments of humour.

Logan recalled the time, watching a Manchester United game at Old Trafford, a home fan shouted at her: "Ger yer tits out!" The person seated beside her, United legend Sir Bobby Charlton, stood up, turned to the idiot and obligingly lifted his own shirt. Not all football men are b*****ds.

There's a question mark in the title of Dirty Old Towns?, too. The main question posed here, though, is why so many TV series aren't happy just being TV series and instead have to style themselves as crusades?

Like Operation Transformation, Dirty Old Towns?, in which Diarmuid Gavin roams the country helping the locals to clean up their community, is a get-out-there-and-do-it campaign that bleeds into Colin Hayes's 2FM radio show and onto the internet.

The relentless, upbeat hectoring becomes very tedious very quickly and mars the series' modest virtues. There was much feelgood pleasure to be derived from watching the residents of rundown Summerhill transform a derelict space into a vibrant community garden. Trouble was, Gavin kept getting in the way and asking me, "Do YOU live in a dirty old town?" Leave me alone!



sexism in football? HHHII dirty old towns? HHIII


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