Sepp Blatter has a history of putting his foot in his mouth. (Getty Images)
Billy Connolly, Jackie Mason and Rick Mercer are among a group of comedians I would pay to see perform. Sepp Blatter is not on my list of the world's great comics. So why does the most powerful man in world football think he's funny?
The FIFA president periodically puts his foot in his mouth and gets away with it. His latest gaffe was, to his mind no doubt, an amusing way of advising gay football fans how to conduct themselves at the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. It is not a joke. It is not tolerated in the Muslim state and carries a prison sentence of five years. If Blatter wishes to make light of the cultural challenges which lie ahead, he should do so in private - not in front of the world's media.
I have spent the majority of my working life surrounded by journalists in busy newsrooms. Routinely they cover stories of death, destruction and disaster. Such topics are considered newsworthy and the reporter's job is to tell the story based on the available facts.
Good news is never headline news. Random acts of kindness and charity are classed as 'light' items which can be used to end a newscast on an uplifting note. They are a tool designed to leave the viewer or listener reassured the world is not about to end.
The experienced, so called hard-bitten journalists invariably share one thing in common. Every one I've ever met or worked with has a voracious sense of humour. It is partly, I believe, a defence mechanism against the horrific stories to which they are often assigned.
Some call it Gallows humour. It is always distasteful and often related to the most traumatic of circumstances. It is off the scale of political incorrectness - the kind of 'humour' most journalists would not even share with their spouse, unless he/she is of the same profession.
There is only one rule for this kind of behaviour. What is said between journalists stays between them. It is never made public or uttered anywhere remotely close to a live microphone. The code is understood by all, thereby preserving the good name of the reporter and his or her news organisation.
Like it or not, and frankly many of us don't, we live in an age of political correctness. The sort of views we may have expressed openly 20 or 30 years ago are simply no longer acceptable. Society demands we temper our language so as not to offend.
Choose words more carefully
Unless, apparently, you happen to be arguably the most influential executive in world sport. Blatter's media advisors must cringe every time their boss steps up to the podium. Stick to the script Mr. President - just stick to the script.
Were his comments taken out of context? You bet they were - but it's too late now. Blatter's announcement of FIFA's gift of $80 million to further develop the game in South Africa, following the World Cup last summer, has been buried under a barrage of criticism.
Has this man never heard of sensitivity? At a time when FIFA is under pressure to change its voting procedures after awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, Blatter's crass quip has discredited his organisation still further.
Image is everything and FIFA needs to clean up its act. For all we know Blatter and his executive committee really do care about spreading the soccer gospel to far flung lands and putting the world's game before profit.
If so the message and the messenger has to change. I have followed football for more than 40 years and will always love the game. But as someone who passionately cares about the sport, I am embarrassed by its leadership and dismayed by its image.
In May next year Sepp Blatter will run for a fourth term as FIFA President. There are murmurs he may be challenged by South Korea's Chung Mong Joon. Significantly, when asked recently about his possible candidacy Chung admitted: "We need to keep FIFA healthy".
For healthy, read credible. Soccer's world governing body cannot allow itself to become a laughing stock. It needs plausible leadership, clear direction, and true transparency. It does not need a loose cannon whose jokes are not funny.
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