David BevanComment

Rights, responsibilities, criticism and offsides

David BevanComment

The best qualified person to do the job, does the job.  That's all that matters.  Here's David Bevan.

At my high school, one of our lessons was called "Forum". It took place in a building called the Forum, in which a couple of hundred chairs were arranged in a staggered semi-circle that faced a stage in a manner befitting a forum. I used to wander around wide-eyed and clueless attempting to work out which of the identical rectangular grey buildings would host my next Geography or Art lesson, admittedly, but I knew for bloody certain where to go for Forum.

Forum was a lesson all about morality. They could have called it Morality, in fact, but I would have missed the first five minutes every week trying to remember which building it was held in. And those first five minutes were the best. Two different teachers took Forum. The first one, whose name has shamefully deserted me over the sands of time, did a little skit for the first five minutes about the week's news events. It was cracking. A bit like a poor man's Have I Got News For You, in fact. And I was a poor man for sure at the age of 13.

After the first chap had performed his weekly routine, this other old boy used to stride purposefully into the middle of the stage with a stern look on his face. Oh, very stern he was. Very, very stern. He used to eyeball the kids on the front row intently before speaking. I always thought it would be good if they swapped roles every once in a while, but it never happened. They were not acting. This was what they were like all day, every day.

The second chap, whose name I also seem to have bizarrely forgotten, specialised in lecturing teenagers about the importance of rights and responsibilities. At which point his left arm would spring up diagonally above his head. His left arm, somewhat paradoxically, represented rights. His right represented responsibilities. So up would go his left arm and he'd bang on about rights for a bit. Then he would simultaneously lower his left arm until it was horizontal and bring his right arm up to the same height while he went on about responsibilities.

Sometimes, if he was feeling particularly energetic, he used to glide around the stage like a giant, mind-numbingly boring bird of prey. Well, that's what he reminded everyone else of. To this football-obsessed dullard, it looked like he was trying to recreate a typical Jan-Aage Fjortoft goal celebration.

I forgot all of that as soon as I left school, which I very much doubt was their intention. Today, though, I remembered it all vividly, thanks to Andy Gray and Richard Keys.

Admit it. You wouldn't have bothered reading this far if you had known this was just going to be yet another rambling rant about those two arrogant, sexist oafs. Fair play, I probably wouldn't either. Various writers have already covered the subject brilliantly, particularly for The Guardian and Two Hundred Per Cent.

When Gray and Keys started covering football on national television, they immediately assumed the right to criticise. The right to sit in a studio and decide whether someone else's actions or decisions are correct or incorrect. Tonight, that right was surrendered because of their lack of responsibility. There should be no room for sexism in football, but the odd slip-up like this confirms our worst fears. It is still deeply ingrained from the very top of the game.

Some people have said we shouldn't be surprised by the whole saga. But I am still perplexed by three things.

Firstly, are their views confined solely to football or do they think that women should not be allowed to hold any positions that might involve vaguely complex decision-making or regulations? What's the difference being a woman who knows the offside law and one who works in the legal system, for example? Over to you, chaps.

Secondly, how infuriating is it when people try to lecture you about something you have studied and practiced in a huge amount of depth?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, how hilarious is it that they picked the offside law to get all high and mighty about? The one law of football, above all, that is impossible to enforce correctly. You can picture the original meeting now.

"That's decided then. Linesmen will raise their flag when a player is offside at the exact moment that the ball is passed."

"But, Herbert..."

"Yes, George?"

"How is the linesman supposed to see when the ball is kicked AND look across the line to check if a player is offside at the same time?"

"Don't worry George. It's not like we'll be letting a woman run the line!"

Plus ça change...

David is site editor of the thoroughly excellent theseventytwo.com.