Sky Was Right To Suspend Sexist Football Pundits

26/01/2011 08:44 | Updated 22 May 2015

Hold onto your hats, ladies, for I have news: apparently you and I are incapable of understanding the basic rules of football.

This scientific breakthrough comes to us courtesy of Andy Gray and Richard Keys, two of Sky's highest profile football presenters, who were recorded making sexist off-air comments about a female referee over the weekend.

In a cosy studio chat before the Wolves v Liverpool match on Saturday, Gray and Keys questioned why a female assistant referee – Sian Massey – had been allowed on the pitch and asserted that "women don't know the offside rule".

Discussing an article published the same day by the West Ham vice-chairman, they went on to deliver the immortal line: "Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour love."

In a happy outcome, for womankind if not for the careers of these two idiot holes, Sky suspended Gray and Keys from last night's game between Bolton and Chelsea and the pair are apparently to face disciplinary action.

Phew. There was a while there when it looked as though they might get away with a half-hearted apology and a slap on the wrist.

It hardly comes as a surprise that there are good old-fashioned sexists in the beautiful game: just look at the relative profile given to men's and women's football.

But what the exchange reveals is just how freely these men felt able to spout their offensive views. They might not have known that their microphones were on (and there we were thinking they were the ones with bigger brains) but they clearly believed that those around them wouldn't take issue with what they were saying.

That one of their colleagues was outraged enough by what they heard to leak the recording to the press is at least one cause for celebration.

Sexism - like its evil twin, racism - has a long and illustrious history in football. If you can believe it, the Football Association actually banned women's football in the 1920s, describing the game as "unsuitable for females". The ban lasted for 40 years and put paid to the ambitions of generations of women players.

Great strides have since been made – the female official predictably wheeled out by the Football Association to assure us of the progress made in her twenty years in the sport is surely right.

But the fact that even news reports about the furore included the absurd observation that Massey, the referee in question, had actually judged one of the match's crucial offside decisions correctly and was therefore "a credit to her gender" shows how far there is to go.

It's the same old story: while men are judged on their merits, women are still judged in comparison to men, and then usually unfavourably.

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Laura Smith is a freelance journalist, writer and editor who has written for publications including The Guardian, The Independent, Marie Claire and the Evening Standard.


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