IT'S wrong to be even wryly amused about other people's misfortunes and even more so if the decidedly touchy subject of racism is involved. That said, the thought of the nigh-venerable John Motson squirming after putting his foot most decisively in it last week did evoke some illicit amusement. Let me be fair - Motson is a dedicated servant to football and has done a marvellous job for the BBC almost since television was invented. But he has irritated me on countless occasions by his insistence on inserting every conceivable piece of trivia concerning the participating clubs and players into his commentary. That invariably means that the commentary cannot always flow naturally. It appears mandatory that any single fact - no matter how banal - about any player must make its way on to the airwaves simply because he is in possession of it. His devotion to the game, and his knowledge of it, cannot be in doubt but the annoying habit of simply inserting obscure and virtually irrelevant facts into the commentary when all one really requires is player identification, has had me grimacing. And others too, I would imagine. Given his almost pedantic approach at times, it was a source of some amazement that he could come out with his remark about black players causing problems of identification. Not a bon mot or two there from Motty. For someone in the business of professional communication, it was surprising that he could come out with the remarks. Motson is not a racist. He's a lover of the game and has been lucky enough to make a good living out of doing a job that, overall, he does well and clearly enjoys doing. But why should black players be more difficult to identify simply because they are that colour? You could hardly mix up Patrick Vieira and Ian Wright for example. I do accept that if you are sitting back and watching it all on television and there are four black players involved you might make a split-second incorrect identification in your own mind - but you could do exactly the same with other players on the field, too. From a professional standpoint, one would have thought that Motson - just like a commentator in horse racing - would have studied his 'field' fairly exhaustively for several days before a game. Obviously there are going to be situations where shirt numbers must play a part. There will be split-second incidents in the goalmouth - involving partly obscured players - where immediate identification is difficult. But surely it is not just colour. Players come in all shapes and sizes, run differently, move differently, are quicker, slower, jump high or don't jump at all. It is also unfortunate that Motson's banana-skin remark about black players has completely overshadowed other decidedly pertinent comments made in the interview with Radio Five Live. The most significant was the taking to task of his employers over their penny-pinching approach to football and the resultant cutback in coverage of the game. Those who have had dealings with the BBC will know that getting rich out of them is not going to be easy. There are exceptions but, generally speaking, the purse-strings are noose-tight and, as a result, are now strangling what used to be the best coverage available anywhere in the world. The BBC simply stood for exemplary coverage and there would be a sigh of relief in many Hong Kong sporting households when it was known that a particular match, tournament or horse race was being taken from the BBC for onward transmission locally. These days the BBC has beaten a sad retreat on virtually all sporting fronts and its coverage of British football has fallen away to recorded highlights and little else. The same goes for racing where their anchorman for over 30 years, Julian Wilson, called it quits recently and will also deliver judgment on his former employers and colleagues in a book which will be fairly eagerly awaited later this year. BBC coverage of that sport has dwindled to once a week and the Classics have all been lost. Unfortunately, when the BBC decides to trim budgets and reduce coverage it is not just those in the UK who are affected. Such has been their international standing that their sporting programmes have been top of the shopping list for countless English-language television stations around the globe. Their expertise will be well to the fore come France 98 when Hong Kong viewers will doubtless see and hear from the BBC team - Motson surely included. Interesting to see how he gets on if a game involving Nigeria falls his way.