Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute has recently been reported on BBC’s Today programme suggesting that football should be banned as a topic of workplace conversation. Her reasoning? Because it can leave women excluded.
I don’t know whether to feel amused or angry with Franck’s comments. Perhaps a little bit of both. More, though, I just feel sad. Sad that such a blatant example of explicit bias can still seriously be voiced by a senior member of the British management establishment in a supposedly woke 21st century working environment.
Let me attempt to separate my emotions and justify them. First, I am amused by Francke’s suggestion because, with football a banned topic, I am left with a vision of a silent workplace; colleagues meeting at the water cooler and simply nodding at one another in mute incomprehension. Second, I am angry, because Francke links football banter to overtly laddish behaviour and discussions about sexual conquests. Where does this inherent nonsense originate? Now we are into a world of implicit bias, and something dark and unlocked in Francke’s own psyche. My own experience of football banter is that it revolves around endless discussions of nerdy statistics; historical grievances; and loyal allegiances, all of which are a million miles removed from any sexual shenanigans. Lastly, I am saddened with Francke’s suggestion, because it ignores a simple truth. Football can be enjoyed by both men and women equally. Just look at the success of the last Women’s World Cup in France in 2019. My workplace fantasy football league is populated by (nearly) as many as women as men, and women are just as passionate in support of their teams as are men, and equally adept and keen to talk about them.
I would suggest that Ann Francke would benefit from watching the episode of Father Ted entitled Escape from Victory; better still purchasing a copy of Understanding Football for Women. If it worked for such a football sceptic as Mrs Doyle, it might work for her.
Failing that, attend an Unconscious Bias workshop.
© Donnie Blake
Donnie Blake is not as unreconstructed as he may appear.