A yellow card for Richard Keys and Andy Gray, but they should have seen red

>Followers of football will know that Richard Keys and Andy Gray have been at the forefront of reinventing the way we watch the sport. They lead both Sky’s normal weekend coverage, and the revolutionary, US inspired, Monday Night Football. They are rightly regarded as top football pundits.

However, their broadcasting may have been ahead of its time, but in the last 24 hours they have proved that their opinions really aren’t. If you have missed it, the off-air exchange between Keys and Gray after  female lineswoman Sian Massey (rightly) allowed Liverpool’s goal went like this:

RK: “Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her,” 
AG: “Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.”
RK: “Course they don’t, I can guarantee you there will be a big one today. Kenny will go potty. This isn’t the first time, is it? Didn’t we have one before? Wendy Toms?”
AG: “she was ——- hopeless as well”.
RK: “The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love.”

The most outrageous thing about the comments is the fact that they used what they saw as Massey’s error  to attack women in football in general. Neither former lineswoman Wendy Toms, nor West Ham Vice President Karen Brady, had anything to do with the Liverpool game. Sexism against one individual is disgraceful anyway, but to they try and smear others just shows how prevalent underlying sexism is amongst football followers. How can this incident do anything else but put women off supporting teams, or getting involved in officiating or playing football?

That the comments were made off-air seems to have just about saved Keys’ and Gray’s job, although they have been taken of tonight’s coverage of Bolton vs Chelsea. The fact they were said off-air actually makes it worse. They wouldn’t dream of saying such things on air! Instead they said it when they thought nobody could hear them, and under the assumption that those that could would just chortle along. The sexism was their real point of view.

Ron Atkinson lost his job in 2004 for making a racist comment off-air. Seven years on, Sky appear to think that sexism is not as serious an offence. Both men have apologised, although nobody knows if they had done so to Masssey herself, and Sky have condemned the comments. However, they should have had the courage to remove the presenters.

Ironically, despite the fact that Keys and Gray were sitting amongst thousands of pounds of hi-tech equipment, and Massey had only a split second in which to make her decision, she was right and they were wrong. Perhaps someone needs go get out the salt and pepper shakers for them instead?


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