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Archive for February, 2011

You’ve got to hand it to Bernie Ecclestone when it comes to straight talking his way round diplomatic trip wires.

In the past few days there has been a steady flow of reports suggesting that the opening race of the Formula One season in Bahrain next month could fall prey to civil unrest. Doubtless the scare stories are seeded in events on the streets of Cairo recently.

Race organisers have done their best to dampen down concerns that the grand prix might have to be cancelled with reassurances that they are monitoring the unrest in the country – the latest Arab state to face public dissent. The deaths of two protesters has done little to ease the situation.

Of immediate concern is the F1 test planned at the Sakhir circuit on March 3 – eight days ahead of the race weekend – a potentially easier target for agitators.

Nabeel Rajab, a representative of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, warned:  “For sure F1 is not going to be peaceful this time. There’ll be lots of journalists, a lot of people looking and [the police] will react in a stupid manner as they did today and yesterday.

“And that will be bloody, but will be more publicised. This will not stop, especially now when people have died. I don’t think it’s going to stop easily.”

Never one to exercise diplomatic restraint where a jackhammer will do, Ecclestone the diminutive F1 ringmaster, did little to allay fears when quizzed on the situation this week.

“The danger is obvious isn’t it,” he ventured. “If these people wanted to make a fuss and get worldwide recognition it would be bloody easy, wouldn’t it?

“You start making a problem on the start grid in Bahrain and it would get worldwide coverage.

“It’s hard to establish exactly what is going on. I’m speaking with the Crown Prince later on. We’re watching events closely. We’ll rely on what they think the right thing to do is. He is a very realistic person. I have never had any problems in Bahrain in the past and I’m happy to walk around town there. But we don’t know now. The world is changing.”

Indeed it is Bernie – and so has the F1 footprint in the past few years, at your behest, to include a number of races in politically combustible destinations.

Ecclestone’s renowned powers of persuasion face a stern test in the coming days.

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Brian Moore, the BBC rugby pundit, has a lengthy charge sheet when it comes to xenophobia and bigotry.

His most recent instalment came last Friday during commentary of the England v Wales Six Nations tournament opener.

Early in the contest a camera panned the Twickenham bleachers and found Alastair Cook, freshly returned from a prodigious Ashes tour.

Moore and co-caller Eddie Butler were moved to comment. Butler said: “What a  magnificent series he had Down Under. Didn’t he do well.”

Moore added: “Couldn’t happen to a nicer race”. A reference to the heavy defeat inflicted on the hosts. He went on … “I’ll probably get into trouble for that.”

The fact is he didn’t get into trouble but the insult should have at least merited a quiet word from the BBC taste police. He should have had his collar felt for this verbal offence – and a string of others.

You see the Pit Bull has previous. Plenty of it.

He once posted a Gary Glitter joke on Twitter which went thus … “Apparently Gary Glitter is the new Aston Villa manager … He heard the strikers are Young, Bent and possibly Keane, boom boom.”

The post drew criticism. The Justin Campaign, which works against homophobia in football, asked Moore to publicly apologise for what they described as “a vile homophobic joke”.

Moore refused, saying: “I will not apologise for your misinterpretation and disgusting insinuation”.

In 2009, on BBC radio, he was forced to apologise for mocking Thalidomide victims on air prior to an England v Argentina match.

He recalled a previous encounter against Argentina when his England team-mate Mike Teague did “a full-on impression of a Thalidomide” by failing to pick up a ball.

One listener reacted: “For someone who achieved so much in sport to get a kick out of mocking people disabled through no fault of their own is appalling.”

The shame is that Moore can be an insightful colour man particularly on his specialist subjects – scrummaging and referees.

He pulls no punches when saying that an official has got a decision wrong and he should be applauded for it. Why then does he choose to let himself down so often?

Last year, Moore, who won 64 caps for England and is a practising solicitor, released an autobiography under the title Beware Of The Dog.

The pages contain detailed accounts of childhood abuse.

The revelations gave rise to apologists pleading clemency for Moore’s acerbic on-air rantings. They cited the book’s contents as an excuse for his incessant spiting of the Scots, Irish, Welsh, French, Australians – in fact anything non-English.

One forum contributor wrote: “Some of Moore’s comments about Scots recently have been verging on racist as well but when taken with his recent revelations about his early life I suspect that the truth is that he remains a troubled and confused character who should be given the benefit of the doubt.”

No one doubts Moore’s childhood was deeply unpleasant and he has our sympathy for that.

But we are all “troubled and confused” at some stage of the week. Most weeks.

The fact is we don’t have a global platform such as a BBC commentary role as a release valve for that trouble and confusion. Nor should we use it if we did.

Some years ago, I encountered Moore for the first time in a central London bar on the eve of a rugby writers’ awards dinner we were both attending.

The greeting was convivial enough at first. Upon hearing my accent he turned decidedly vitriolic. I put that down to him being troubled and confused by half a dozen whiskeys.

Last month Sky Sports two lead soccer commentators lost their 15-year jobs following derogatory remarks captured while the pair – Richard Keys and Andy Gray – were unaware the microphones were on.

They were dispatched because their sexist comments – calling into
question the credentials of a female linesperson and suggestive comments by Gray to a female colleague – were deemed by Sky to unacceptable.

Moore was absent for the England v Italy match this Saturday – a fixture in which you would expect him to be riding shotgun with Welshman Butler.

Perhaps the BBC were fearful of what he might utter at the Italians’ expense.

He returned yesterday alongside Butler for Ireland v France and was a model of diplomacy.

But in the light of the BBC’s pledge to clean up its act following a spate of phone quiz irregularities, editorial misjudgments, and the departure of chat show host Jonathan Ross in the wake of questionable on-air remarks, Moore is surely one tasteless remark from a red card.

In these times of forensic scrutiny of the BBC licence fee and the ongoing eradication of dinosaurs with microphones across the media spectrum, Moore is an endangered species.

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