Bad news: Talking about football at work is sexist, say management experts

In ancient Rome, a victorious General returning to the city in triumph always had a slave walking behind him through the cheering crowds, whispering, again and again, into his ears the words “memento mori” – remember, you are a mortal. It might be a good idea to revive the practice for men in general, and to have someone walk behind us everywhere we go, whispering again and again into our ears remember, you men are awful”:

Chat about football or cricket in the workplace should be curtailed, a management body has warned.

Ann Francke, head of the Chartered Management Institute, said sports chat can exclude women and lead to more laddish behaviour.

“A lot of women, in particular, feel left out,” she told the BBC’s Today programme.

“They don’t follow those sports and they don’t like either being forced to talk about them or not being included.”

“I have nothing against sports enthusiasts or cricket fans – that’s great,” she said.

“But the issue is many people aren’t cricket fans,” she added, arguing bosses should crack down on sports banter.

Ms Francke is concerned that discussing football and, for example, the merits of video assistant refereeing (VAR) can disproportionately exclude women and divide offices.

“It’s a gateway to more laddish behaviour and – if it just goes unchecked – it’s a signal of a more laddish culture,” she said

“It’s very easy for it to escalate from VAR talk and chat to slapping each other on the back and talking about their conquests at the weekend.”

The more one reads from feminists these days the more one wonders whether they’ve ever met any normal men.

Nonetheless, fair’s fair. On behalf of men everywhere, let’s make a deal: No more talking about sports within earshot of the womenfolk. In return, we expect a complete ban on all talk of Love Island, celebrities, and where you can buy that fantastic new moisturiser that, I swear to God, is just magic stuff altogether.

In future, let us confine all workplace chatter to the really important things, like whether everybody watched Andrea Dworkin’s oh-so-ground-breaking-and-brave TED talk on Youtube, or whether Ted from accounts has a thing for Tara in Quality Assurance.

It’s worth noting, in fairness to the feminists, that this madness doesn’t come directly from one of their countless lobbying organisations, but comes instead from the UK’s Chartered Management Institute, an organisation that apparently knows about as much about management as it does about men.

How is this, in theory, to be enforced? Does it go into contracts of employment? “Employees shall desist from any conversation about whether Mick McCarthy has done the right thing by leaving James McClean out of the squad to face the Faroe Islands next Wednesday”?

For an organisation devoted to improving productivity, these people seem very eager for managers to spend vastly more of their time hiding behind corners, listening out for dangerous words and phrases like “Klopp is a magician” and “our defense is shite”.

The thinking behind this is much more revealing than the specific proposal, incidentally, because it goes to the idea that your hobbies cannot be your hobbies if they exclude somebody who is not interested in them, and that people – grown adults – are simply incapable of coping with something so traumatic as not having the same interests as other people.

What happens if that is taken to its logical conclusion? And why should it only apply to workplaces? Why not, for example, schools? Is it really fair to students who like history, and debating, and reading Harry Potter books to have to listen to a bunch of jocks talking about Rugby? And why should those Rugby lads have to put up with a bunch of nerds talking about the latest episode of Game of Thrones? It’s flat out exclusionary, is what it is?

Take this to its conclusion, and you basically have to post a list of approved topics for conversation in every shared space, and tell people what they’re allowed to be interested in. Imagine starting a new job and walking in to find that in that office, an approved subject for workplace chit-chat is “Messiah on Netflix”. You’d actually have to go home and watch a television programme as part of your job.

Somewhere, at some point, somebody actually sat down, thought this idea up, and decided to tell the BBC about it.

It’s a wonder sometimes that humanity ever managed to come this far, isn’t it?

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