TWO British commentators who were recorded making “inexcusable” comments about a female assistant referee were suspended from coverage of last night’s Premier League fixture between Bolton and Chelsea.
Andy Gray and Richard Keys were caught making a series of sexist comments on Sky Sports while talking off-air about Sian Massey, who was running the line during Saturday’s clash between Wolves and Liverpool.
During the match, Massey correctly ruled Raul Meireles onside as he set up Liverpool’s first goal, but before the game had begun Gray was recorded saying that “women don’t know the offside rule”, while Keys added that her involvement showed that football had “gone mad”.
The pair were given a warning by Barney Francis, the managing director of Sky Sports, who called each presenter yesterday morning. Premier League sources said that Massey had accepted a personal apology from Keys, who called her yesterday.
But Gray had not yet made a public apology, and further sexist comments made by the presenter emerged yesterday afternoon. The tape, obtained by Sky News UK, shows Gray preparing to record footage for the build-up to Saturday’s game.
Gray discusses whether Ms Massey is good-looking, before a member of the crew asks him: “Female assistant, Andy, any good to you?” Gray replies: “I can see her from here. F***. What do women know about the offside rule?”
After failing to address the row for two days, Sky, which is 39.1 per cent owned by News Corporation, parent company of News Limited – owner of The Australian, finally acted by suspending the pair from the broadcaster’s Monday night football coverage.
Mr Francis said: “I have spoken directly to both Richard Keys and Andy Gray this morning. It has been made clear to each of them that their comments were totally unacceptable. Those views are inexcusable, entirely inconsistent with our ethos as a business and employer, and will rightly offend many of our customers, our people, and the wider public.
“They are inexcusable from anyone at Sky, regardless of their role or seniority. We have dealt with this matter by taking immediate disciplinary action.
“They have been clearly warned about their behaviour and reminded of their responsibilities. In addition, Richard and Andy will not be involved in any way with tonight’s live Monday Night Football.”
It is still not clear how the pair’s match comments, which were published in a Sunday newspaper, became public. One senior Sky executive said that the remarks appeared to have been leaked by one of the company’s own staff, as they had been recorded via Sky Sports microphones.
Keys also criticised Karren Brady, The Apprentice panellist and vice-chairman of West Ham United, who had complained about sexism in football in a newspaper column on the morning of the game. Key said: “The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism. Yeah, do me a favour, love.”
The pair have a history of ridiculing women in football. Footage circulating on the internet from the 1998 Women’s FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Croydon shows the pair collapsing into laughter at what they see.
Brady said that their remarks had made her “blood boil”. Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday she said: “What really upsets me is the fact that only females in our industry are judged by their gender. And that is categorically wrong.”
She said that football “still has this sort of old-fashioned, out-of-date view of what a woman’s role is within the industry and it infuriates me,” adding: “I am surprised they didn’t say, ‘better go and get her to get the kettle on’.