Andy Gray and Richard Keys were relatively well known sports commentators until a leaked tape showed them uttering sexist comments about assistant referee Sian Massey at the Liverpool v. Wolves game yesterday. Now, their faces are everywhere.
There’s no excuse for the sort of behind the scenes off-the-cuff black humour they were indulging in, but it is surprising that this is turning into a PR disaster. With Andy Gray’s departure from Sky Sports just announced, it’s interesting to note the leeway given to comedians like Frankie Boyle. What is the tipping point between joke and PR disaster?
It’s a lesson for those in public life to never drop their guard but the clamour of media commentators who claim that their rude comments about the ability of a woman to understand the rules of football are the worst example of unreconstructed laddism in the game are mistaken. This is a rose-tinted-spectacle view of football from the comfy media and corporate hospitality boxes.
Have these folk ever actually ventured onto the terraces? They are still knee deep in racist, violet, homophobic and angry language that would make your hair curl. The terrace thuggery and organised violence of 30 years ago might have been all but eradicated, butchou can’t curb the tongues of the masses in full tribal flow.
Castigating the pair is a good move towards encouraging more women to participate in the beautiful game, but it is worth bearing in mind that Sian Massey and any other women who officiate are going to hear far worse from the terraces than they did from the leaked recordings of Gray and Keys.
Now for the next big questions; where are the Asian role models on the football field? And who, on the field, is going to lead by example and make the sport a more welcoming place for homosexuals? Do we accept that football will always be unreconstructed or do we try to change it?