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Make football more gay


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I agree/disagree with this.



People sometimes remark on the lack of coverage of mainstream sport in this column, so here is something I observed from the commentary on the England-Uruguay match on BBC: John Motson and Graeme Le Saux - they're no Morecambe and Wise, are they?

And now on to other matters, namely the BBC's failure to be gay enough. According to a report in this paper last week, the BBC stands accused of "delivering astonishingly poor value for gay licence fee payers by failing to accurately reflect their lives". Absolutely. You want to see your life reflected. I made a similar complaint, about March Of The Penguins. Astonishingly poor value. And don't even get me started on £2.50 for a bag of Maltesers.


What the BBC is guilty of, says the gay rights group Stonewall, is something called "low-level homophobia". It calculates the level of the BBC's homophobia, based on research undertaken at Leeds University, which I am loth to criticise as that is my local higher education gaff.


Apparently, these Leeds University people, when they are not stopping me from getting anywhere near the bar of the Fenton Hotel on a Friday night, are sitting around watching unconscionable amounts of BBC television, not even switching over for Deal Or No Deal, stopwatch in hand, clocking "realistic portrayals of gay lifestyles". Out of 168 hours of prime-time programming - 168 hours, count 'em, and they say academia is a soft option - the researchers found only six minutes that they felt gave the gay lifestyle a decent hearing.


But what do they mean by a gay lifestyle? Some of my best friends are Leeds University researchers, and I am sure they would agree that what we have here is what Sherlock Holmes would call a three-pipe problem. I know a reform rabbi who is gay, and his lifestyle involves reading the Torah a fair bit, bending the rules so Jews can marry people of other faiths in synagogue, and dealing with any chopped herring-related issues arising from the weekly socials. He lives quietly and monogamously with a dentist. On the other hand, the gay chappie who inhabited the flat above mine in the late 1970s had a pharmaceutical-fuelled social life that made the shenanigans in Footballers' Wives look like the demented dribblings of a rather inhibited boy scout, and I have to say aroused some envy among us heterosexuals who were struggling along on a much more modest strike rate.


Boudoir preferences apart, these two lifestyles have nothing in common, so whose gay lifestyle should the BBC be striving to portray? I should say that unless your programme is specifically concerned with activities centring on that area between the navel and the kneecap, the sexuality of the participants is more or less irrelevant, and certainly not susceptible to ludicrous stopwatch calculations.


But the BBC is unlikely to be so cavalier about the issue. It will be tossing and turning in bed at night, fretting over its perceived failure to give value for money. So here is a possible solution - make the football coverage more gay.


Unfortunately, Graeme Le Saux, despite suffering some extremely unpleasant and rather high-level homophobia during his football career, turns out to be vehemently heterosexual, and we have to assume that John Motson is as well, if not because of his wife and children, because of his appalling dress sense.


This is a pity, because two blokes going round the world, climbing into commentary boxes together, burbling on about football, laughing at each other's weak jokes, would, I am sure, fall into the category of a gay lifestyle, and have the added benefit of giving a point to Le Saux's presence at the microphone, because, let's face it, who needs yet another heterosexual telling us, when an international striker blasts six yards wide of an open goal, "he'll be disappointed with that"?


Football is, of course, in denial of its gay side. The game is roughly at the stage the Republic of Ireland was 20-odd years ago, when I was discussing with an Irish friend a well-known Irish singer who seemed to be astoundingly gay, but who claimed to be heterosexual and had an enthusiastic female following. "He must be gay," I said. "Of course not," my friend replied. "Nobody is in the Republic. It's not allowed."


The Celtic tiger swept that away to some extent, and now the BBC has the chance to do similar in the football world. How about an all-gay World Cup panel, for instance? Would that not go some way to encouraging the many gays in football to embrace their sexuality, save a lot of young men a great deal of hurt and anguish, and encourage my friends at Leeds University to put their silly stopwatches away?


So far, judging by the Uruguay match, the BBC seems reluctant to innovate, which is a shame for those of us wearying of Gary Lineker's laddish badinage. The World Cup is less than 100 days away, and there have been few signs of any fringe players - a Michael Carrick or Darren Bent - being given a try-out in the BBC's squad, not necessarily for the high-profile live matches, but maybe on the terminally dull Final Score, a pale imitation at best of Sky's Soccer Saturday.


How about, for one week only, replacing Ray Stubbs and his dreary bunch of post-match stiffs with Jonathan Ross and Four Poofs and a Piano? Value for money for all, I should say.

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