Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Sky's the limit for Keys and Gray

Following Richard Keys and Andy Gray’s now infamous and disparaging remarks about Sian Massey’s abilities to understand the offside rule, Keys has resigned while Gray has been sacked from Sky Sports, which said that Gray was let go "in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour".

The narrow-mindedness of these presenters in suggesting there is no place for women as referees is shocking and the result of Sky’s swift and unequivocal stand against such comments is clear: there is no place in football or its coverage for hostility toward difference.

Unfortunately, Sunday’s outburst against Massey was not the first or only time Gray had displayed obviously sexist and misogynistic behaviour.

His track record of disrespectful comments was confirmed by three of Gray’s female colleagues who spoke to The Guardian, on the condition of anonymity.

All three women confirmed that Sky Sports was a boy’s club, where bullying and sexism were standard.

And while this might have been Gray’s first on camera gaffe, the fact that he apparently contributed to such a culture, and yet maintained the respect of many fans is saddening.

Many have come to Gray’s defence by arguing his comments have been taken out of context, and that it was quite clearly a joke between colleagues who thought they were not being taped.

However, does that mean that jokes not meant for public consumption, however offensive, are acceptable in our society as long as they do not become news?

Does it mean that there is an appropriate context for an overtly sexist conversation?

Hopefully, this incident will bring focus to the necessary equality of everyone involved in the game: players, fans, referees, and presenters, instead of just Gray himself.

As the F.A. continue to see positive results from its Respect Campaign, which promotes the universal responsibility of all involved in football to ensure a fair, safe and enjoyable experience, it is heartening to know that Sky was so quick to discipline and ultimately terminate the contract of one of its best known presenters.

Although it should be added here that Gray’s lawsuit against Murdoch’s News Of The World, over wire-tapping allegations, may itself have had a certain influence.

Obviously, Massey’s gender does not impact her ability to act as an assistant referee, and there should be no place within the game or the coverage of the game for attitudes that undermine the positive impact of diversity and equality.

In response to Gray, I would just like to say “Do me a favour, love. Have some respect.”

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