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JENNI MURRAY: Sex sells men's sport for me and other women like me.


I CONFESS I had to pause for a moment and reflect on my angry reaction to the UEFA President, Lennart Johansson's, claim that women's football would attract more sponsorship if the players were prepared to 'sex it up' a bit. Why do I watch rugby? Is it for the devastating accuracy of Wilkinson's kicks or all that heaving and sweating of young male bodies at the peak of physical perfection?

If I'm lured into football, is it for Wayne Rooney's undoubted skill on the field or do I long for the return of up-turned collar, sex on fast legs, Eric Cantona? Yes, frankly, I have to concede that sex sells men's sport for me and a lot of other women like me who couldn't care two hoots for the offside rule, but, I'm afraid, it's different for girls. They have struggled consistently to be accepted as athletes at all. We used to be told we should never run or jump or ride a bike because our internal organs would be damaged and we'd never be able to breed. Nonsense, obviously, but a powerful block for many years to thousands of ambitious females.

When they are permitted to take part, they're expected not to sweat, but gently glow. When they play tennis, it's often their frilly knickers that are the focus of attention and when, at last, their football is taken seriously enough to be televised they're told it's not feminine and they should look to the way they look. No wonder so many school girls are put off toning their bodies to athletic perfection in their chosen sport - a pleasure a boy claims as his right.

The French tennis star Natalie Dechy wore trousers, sensibly, in what was a very cold early June, at Eastbourne. No frills, no cute little behind to flash at the crowds, just damn good tennis. Good for her. NEVER has the North-South divide been so blatantly exploited as in the media coverage of Royal Ascot being held at York. Two Stockport lads allegedly interpreted the 'hats obligatory' rule by wearing flat caps - a clear indication to the Southern media that the north is still full of bumpkins who spend their entire time trotting between the pub and the pigeon loft and wouldn't recognise a dress code if it flew out and bit them on thenose. Clearly it never occurred to these soft snobs, who've never before needed to travel north of Watford Gap, that this might simply have been what the north really most famous for - an acute sense of humour.

And they have certainly never been to a wedding in posh Ripon or Harrogate or parts of rural Cheshire where toppers, tails and impeccable manners are an absolute requirement. Not that these Southern Jocks had much in the way of sense of humour or savoir faire. One middle aged and married upper class twit bemoaned the absence of 'a decent filly' at the meeting, referring not to the horse flesh, but to daughters fit for a fling. Says it all, really. YES, I did remember to send a flattering card, a tactic not shared by the boys who sent one to 'him indoors' saying when they grew up they wanted to be just like him, only thinner, richer and with more hair - not sure he was best pleased. I was struck by a book of quotations brought out to celebrate the day which has this from David Beckham: 'I remember so clearly us going into hospital so Victoria could have Brooklyn. I was eating a Lion Bar at the time.' Does the guy never miss a chance for promotional activities? Then there's the Queen who, on first seeing Prince William, is alleged to have said: 'Thank goodness he hasn't got ears like his father!' No wonder Charles has been such an insecure wreck when even his mother hasn't a good word to say about him. SO, THE latest health scare designed to put us off our food says bacon and eggs for breakfast, a ham sandwich for lunch and a steak for dinner every day will increase your chances of getting bowel cancer - too much red meat. Personally, I'm heartily sick of the fitness fascists poking their noses into every aspect of our waking life.

Once a week I indulge in a takeout bacon sarnie for breakfast. There's a wonderful spread there of bacon, black pudding, eggs, fried bread, beans - it makes your mouth water just thinking about it. They've now introduced a new section of muesli and fruit - marked 'healthy options'. Having been raised on 'a little of what you fancy does you good', this simply drives me, in infantile defiance, towards the fry up counter. Muesli every morning? I might as well be dead
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 22, 2005
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