ONE OF the funniest episodes of the comedy The IT Crowd involves the two central characters Roy and Moss having to pretend they are knowledgeable about football.

When asked what team he supports by a group of footie-mad lads in a pub, he spies a joint of meat on the carvery and shouts : “West Ham!”

It’s hilarious watching the discomfort of the pair as they bluff their way through the conversation, going on to attend - and in no way enjoy - an actual football match.

This week came a call that employers must crack down on sports chat in the workplace because it ‘excludes women and encourages laddish behaviour’.

Ann Franke, head of the London-based Chartered Management Institute said such talk leaves women feeling left out. She is concerned that discussing the merits of video assistant refereeing (VAR) in football, for example, can exclude women and divide offices.

Cricket and rugby chatter too, comes under fire for the same reasons.

She’s got a point - sports banter can leave those not in the know feeling awkward, but it is men who suffer most, not women.

As the IT Crowd brilliantly illustrates, there is a general assumption that blokes know about sport, in particular football.

I’ve worked in offices, both in the newspaper industry and the Civil Service, and have witnessed this situation many times. Men talk about football to other men, believing they can instantly slot into conversations such as whether Sergio Aguero’s second goal should have been disallowed, or why Mo Salah was left on the bench.

It is somehow assumed that all men like and know about football. For a man who doesn’t, having to pretend he does is surely far more difficult than being left out.

It is true that, despite the rising interest in women’s football, females tend not to be consulted about the game. But it would take a very sensitive ‘snowflake’ to take offence at that.

I know far more than my husband about both football and cricket - he doesn’t know Joe Cole from Joe Root. Yet if we are out socially, he gets the eye contact when sport crops up. He doesn’t have a clue what is being said, he just spends a lot of time nodding his head. I quite enjoy watching him squirm.

But while women are not as a rule at the epicenter of sports chatter, if they know their stuff and join conversations they are not ignored. Neither are they ‘forced’ to talk about sport they know nothing about, as Ms Francke said can also happen. That’s a man thing.

More seriously, Ms Franke added, if unchecked, such conversations can lead to boorish banter about sex. “It’s very easy for it to escalate from VAR talk and chat to slapping each other on the back and talking about their conquests at the weekend.”

Maybe this would have been the case in the 1970s, in the days when men routinely got away with patting women on the bum.

In all my years at work I have only once heard such a ‘boorish’ exchange between male colleagues. I admit it appalled me, but it was a long time ago.

In my current workplace conversations about sport, whether cricket, football or rugby, produce no laddish banter or barriers between sexes. Everyone who wants to chips in.

Although I did put my foot in it when, last season, I casually asked a colleague and long-time Leeds fan: “So how was the match last night? Are they going up this year?”

The question was met with a fierce look that could melt ice.