In 2012, the ‘f word’ appeared 808 times in the Guardian newspaper, with the ‘c word’ popping up on 69 occasions.
In terms of usage, this was a significant increase on the previous year.
I’m singling out the Guardian because, unlike other publications, they print these offensive words in full.
And that made coverage of the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand court case — the principal reason for the upsurge in published profanity — ripe for reading.
There’s no desire to rake over the coals of that tawdry episode, other than to point out that, in depositions, it became apparent that such industrial language is completely normal during the course of a football match.
As Ferdinand said at the time, being called “a c**t” was fine, “but when someone brings your colour into it, it takes it to another level.”
Oh, okay. Good luck, then, to the referees facing renewed calls for them to be ‘mic’d up’ in future.
The requests have increased since the advent of VAR which, in principle, is a positive thing but, in practice, it’s often a shambles.
Consider, for instance, the recent game involving Arsenal and Man United at the Emirates, when supporters were left in the dark for nearly five minutes while officials deliberated on what was, admittedly, an unusual incident.
In short: a ‘goal’ from Eddie Nketiah was, correctly, ruled out for offside but, in the build-up, his Arsenal colleague Bukayo Saka had been felled inside the box – so it’s a penalty, which was duly dispatched by Saka to make it 2-0.
This was all patently clear for people watching recorded highlights, when commentators had the opportunity to insert ‘hindsight’ explanations which made them come across as a lot sharper than their ‘live’ colleagues.
For the poor sods in the stadium, however, there was mass confusion.
Had this been a major rugby union or American football match, everyone inside the ground would have been aware of the deliberations, fortified by repeated large screen replays.
Yet long before the advent of ‘video assisted referees’, this was under consideration in the top tier of English football.
As far back as 1989, David Elleray — now chair of the FA’s referee committee and technical director of the International Football Association Board (Ifab) – agreed to wearing a microphone during a match between Millwall and title-chasing Arsenal at The Den.
It was for a documentary on Granada TV called Out of Order, and both clubs were aware of the situation.
Only Millwall, however, informed their players.
The result was TV gold for the programme’s producers, with Arsenal players such as skipper Tony Adams and the late David Rocastle spewing vile invective at Elleray, a former Harrow headmaster.
Adams actually used the ‘c’ word – by that I mean “cheat”, the one thing you simply cannot call referees – after a goal was disallowed, earning him a stiff rebuke. Years later, Elleray said the programme had been slickly edited to make it look as if the Gunners players had behaved appallingly when, in reality, they were relative choirboys that day.
But the powers-that-be, horrified by what they saw and heard, quietly shelved any plans to ‘mic up’ the men in black.
But there are women in black now, and last month — for the first time in English football since that effing game at the Den – audio from the officials was shared with supporters.
That audio, from Chelsea’s match against Reading in the Women’s Super League and officiated by Emily Heaslip, showcased the sort of of lucidity and transparency that’s been missing in the men’s game.
But it also highlighted, once again, just how difficult the job is.
Never was this better exemplified than in January 2000, when six United players accosted Andy D’Urso after he’d awarded a penalty to Middlesbrough.
It was D’Urso’s first game at Old Trafford and he clearly didn’t realise you’re not allowed to give penalties there.
One can only imagine the choice language being spat out as the apoplectic sextet of Roy Keane, Jaap Stam, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Denis Irwin surrounded the poor official who, to his credit, stood by his decision.
You wonder how renowned modern-day moaners like United’s Bruno Fernandes will adapt to a live Premier League game where there’s no lackey sitting in a studio with his finger hovering over the bleep button.
The Guardian doesn’t use expletives to disguise quoted profanity because they regard their readers as mature enough to deal with it, but do you really want to subject kids to hearing ‘role models’ turning the air blue?
Even now, I can vividly recall, as a young teenager, the shock at hearing Arsenal’s Northern Ireland left back Sammy Nelson screaming “I never f**king touched him” to a linesman after being flagged for a foul.
Nelson’s profanity was picked up by a pitch-side microphone; it was the first time I’d heard the ‘f word’ on live TV.
It’s highly unlikely the ref’s mic will be on for the full game — presumably just for VAR — but it could be a right while before footballers display similar respect and restraint to their rugby counterparts.
More of a curse than a blessing, you might say.
It has been described as the ‘pass of the decade’.
And there is no doubt that Luka Modric’s outrageous ‘outside of the boot’ assist for Real Madrid team-mate Rodrygo’s recent goal against Chelsea was a thing of great beauty you’d never tire of watching.
But ‘pass of the decade’? It wasn’t even the best pass of this year! For me, it’s eclipsed by Trent Alexander-Arnold’s astonishing, diagonal, raking 50-yarder to Diego Jota, who was then adjudged to have been brought down by Crystal Palace’s Vicente Guaita for a hotly-disputed Liverpool penalty in January.
Referee Kevin Friend apparently watched the incident 17 times before opting for the spot kick which Fabinho dispatched for a crucial late goal in the Premier League match.
And afterwards the TV and radio pundits spent aeons debating the merits of the decision.
Yet no one gave a mention to the incredible piece of skill from ‘TAA’ that brought it about in the first place.
Funnily enough, when Modric produced his moment of magic to turn the Champions League tie in Real’s favour, the commentator initially made no reference to the assist, instead banging on about Rodrygo’s neat, cushioned volley into the Chels ea net.
It was co-commentator Glenn Hoddle who piped up “yes... but what about that pass from Modric?”