Keys and Gray in hot water


SKY SPORTS was under pressure last night to discipline its top football presenting team, Richard Keys and Andy Gray, after they were recorded making sexist remarks about two female match officials and a leading female football executive.

Keys and Gray were recorded during transmission of Saturday’s Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool complaining that the assistant referee, Sian Massey, probably didn’t know the offside rule and that someone “f***ed up big” by appointing a female match official.

“The game’s gone mad,” said Keys, the channel’s football anchor. The recording was not broadcast, but was passed to the Mail on Sunday by an anonymous source.

Massey (25) was running the line in a Premier League game for only the second time and made a crucial, finely judged offside decision when Fernando Torres scored the first goal for Liverpool.

She is one of three assistant referees selected for promotion by the Premier League and has been earmarked as a potential official in for the biggest matches. There are 853 female referees in England and the number is rising.

In the 50-second exchange, Gray also attacked Wendy Toms, who in the late 90s became the first female assistant referee in the Premier League, saying: “She was f***ing hopeless as well.”

Keys turned his fire on Karren Brady, the deputy chair of West Ham, who on Saturday wrote a newspaper column saying she had been the victim of sex discrimination from the football media. “See charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism?” Keys said. “Yeah. Do me a favour, love.”

The remarks drew criticism from across the game. “It is absolutely abhorrent that gender is the only consideration when talking about female officials,” Brady told the Guardian. “I am very interested to see what the bosses at Sky Sports think of this and then we will know whether sexism goes to the top of the game or not.”

The comments were branded “medieval” by Fare, a Europe-wide campaign group opposed to discrimination in football. “They reveal the appalling and damaging sexist attitudes that exist across football,” said Piara Powar, its executive director. “If they had made the same comments about a black or Asian linesman we would be looking at what happened to Ron Atkinson (who was urged to resign as a pundit by ITV in 2004 after he made a racist remark live on air when he thought the microphone was off).”

Sky said last night: “The comments are not acceptable. They were not made on air but we have spoken to Richard and Andy and told them our views and they have apologised and expressed their regret.” The FA issued a statement which offered “wholehearted and continuing support” for female match officials.

Mike Riley, general manager of the referees’ body said: “All referees and assistant referees are appointed on merit and ability. They are assessed on their performances only.”

Manchester United said on Sunday they were not for sale after the Sunday Times reported that Qatar Holding had held talks about a €1.8-billion takeover. “There has been no approach of any kind to buy the club and one wouldn’t be welcome anyway because it is not for sale,” a spokesman said,

Guardian Service