Sky bench 'prehistoric' Keys and Gray
SOCCER:SKY’S MAIN football presenters were yesterday labelled “prehistoric” by the England captain Rio Ferdinand for their views of women officials and executives, as Uefa described football as a game run by an “institutionally sexist” old boys’ club.
Richard Keys and Andy Gray were last night dropped from presenting Bolton Wanderers’ match against Chelsea as their employer was forced to condemn their comments about female assistant referee Sian Massey, who was branded “f****ing hopeless”, and the West Ham United vice-chair, Karren Brady.
Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis said he had spoken to both men to tell them their comments were “totally unacceptable” and “inexcusable from anyone at Sky regardless of their role or seniority”.
The pair will be absent from screens until at least next week and have been warned any repeat is likely to be a sackable offence.
The insults levelled at Massey came just days after a meeting of senior European football figures, convened by Uefa and the Football Association, concluded that football is “institutionally sexist” – run, across the continent, by an “old boys’ club”.
Further humiliating footage emerged yesterday of an exchange between Gray and a Sky touchline reporter in which they discussed Massey in disparaging terms before going on air.
BSkyB has poured millions into partnerships with British Cycling and corporate sports-based social responsibility initiatives in a bid to soften its image and highlight its investment in grassroots sport. There will be concerns that huge investment could be undermined if it was perceived the attitudes of Gray and Keys are widespread.
Keys and Gray were recorded before the match at Molineux between Woverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool on Saturday making derogatory remarks, which were not broadcast, about Massey. She has been selected by the Premier League as one of three “level two” officials with the potential to officiate at a higher level.
Gray said “somebody’s f***ed up” by appointing Massey to run the line. Keys agreed, saying Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, “will go potty”. Referring to the Premier League’s first female assistant referee, Gray said: “Wendy Toms, she was f***ing hopeless as well.”
Dalglish has actually revealed he had he had no idea a female assistant referee had allowed Liverpool’s first goal at Molineux on Saturday and, contrary to Keys’ pre-match claim, said he could not care less.
“I don’t have a problem with the gender of people officiating at a football match. They’ve got to know the laws of the game, haven’t they?
“I don’t know what Sky’s attitude is towards women, but certainly for me if you’re good at your job I don’t think your gender should be a restraint.”
A spokesman for the Professional Game Match Officials Board said last night Keys had phoned Massey on Sunday night to offer a personal apology, which she accepted. The 25-year-old will run the line tonight at Crewe Alexandra’s game against Bradford City.
Through Twitter, Ferdinand praised Massey and added: “I’m all for women refereeing in football, discrimination should not happen in our game at all . . . prehistoric views if u think otherwise.”
The Uefa meeting, held in Amsterdam last week to launch an effort to address “institutional discrimination”, considered new research which documented the “under-representation” of women in coaching or executive positions, and a finding that “more than 99 per cent” of European football’s senior administrators, at clubs and football associations, are middle-aged to elderly white men.
Referring to the lack of women coaches, executives or club directors, the report, by Dr Steven Bradbury of Loughborough University, concluded there is a “deeply masculine culture, and overt and casual sexism inherent within the men’s game”.
The report by Bradbury and his research team, presented to the “institutional discrimination” seminar which included the presidents of five European football associations, three members of Uefa’s executive committee and Sue Law, the FA’s head of equality and child protection, stated that in football, knowledge and expertise are assumed to belong to “the male expert” and women’s abilities are “devalued and invalidated”.