Article: Andy Gray should not have been sacked

I get the impression that British society expects footballers to display exemplary behaviour because there’s so much money flying around and they’re in the public eye.  Newsflash: it’s full of young hot-blooded males who, generally, leave school very early because of their sporting prowess and socialise in environments where the more money there is, the “better quality” vices become.  It’s easy to judge them from afar when few of us can honestly take the moral high ground without being in that situation ourselves.

But the uproar over Andy Gray, the Sky television pundit and former footballer who, for 30 years until Cristiano Ronaldo, was the only player to be named PFA Young Player of the Year and PFA Player of the Year in the same season, was over the top.

Published on The Vibe, I’ve posted the article below.  Do let me know what you think.

No matter what the mood, a Will Ferrell film will make me happy and none more so than the oscar-deserving ‘Anchorman, The Legend of Ron Burgundy’.  For those unfamiliar with the film, it is a comedy that takes a look at 1970s attitudes to women working in the newsroom.  Famous quotes include: “Don’t get me wrong.  I love the ladies.  I mean, they rev my engines, but they don’t belong in the newsroom!” and “It is anchor man, not anchor lady.  And that is a scientific fact”.

In light of Andy Gray’s sacking yesterday, I was reminded of a panel discussion, ‘Reconsidering Anchorman’, that took place last year and explored (in part) the overtly sexist attitudes the film explores.  Overkill? Most definitely and Sky’s response in deciding to sack him on the grounds of sexist behaviour also smacks of overkill, knee-jerking and pointlessness.

The Wikileaks-esque release of videos incriminating a whole host of men at Sky displaying sexist attitudes, in private, should not surprise anyone.  Primarily, not least because it is the male-dominated world of professional football (and Sky TV) but more so because it is men, in private, displaying behaviour that more often than not forms the basis of conversation between men.

Andy Gray’s ‘lewd’ comments to Charlotte Walker inviting her to tuck a microphone into his trousers is most definitely boorish and, rightly, met with indifference by Miss Walker.  But it’s no different to the kind of exchanges that take place in workplaces across the country.  This doesn’t make it right at all but a similar kind of misandry takes place all the time.

At a place like Sky TV, whose female presenters would not look out of place at modelling agencies (and are most likely selected from some) and whose ‘Soccerettes’ are an ever-present feature of their flagship programme ‘Soccer AM’, the sacking smacks of hypocrisy and an attempt to be seen to be doing the right thing.

Andy Gray should not have been sacked and neither should Sky consider sacking the others.  At the time of writing, Richard Keys has made another apology, this time publicly on talkSPORT radio, following his ‘banterous apology’ on Sunday directly to Sian Massey, the assistant referee at the centre of the storm.  Andy Gray, for his part, has issued a statement indicating his desire to apologise on the Monday broadcast following the incident.  A public apology from both would have prevented this blowing completely out of proportion whilst a statement from Massey highlighting her view on the issue would not have gone amiss.  As is the case with most controversies of this nature (race, sex), the actualy ‘offendee’ never seems to say anything until the storm has passed.  Why let the storm pass in the first place?

Sian Massey would have passed the same rigorous testing as any other
referee to officiate at the highest level and has every right to be
there.  Much has been made of the offside call she made right.  But I guarantee, had she made the wrong call, she would have been vilified and dismissed as incompetent based on her gender in pubs all over the land and this would be no different to the assumptions some (male and female) drivers make when someone takes an age to parallel park or hesitates at a roundabout.

Most importantly, the conversations were held in private.  The fallout and general uproar seems to suggest we’re all upstanding citizens with no prejudices or stereotypes and, even if we did have them, we would not be vocal about it unless we’d written it down in our diaries.  Which would have one of those pathetic padlocks that a teething newborn could break.

Numerous stories have come out about an inherently ‘sexist’ culture at Sky, with a great deal of bullying, whilst new theories have emerged that Gray’s sacking is part of a bigger conspiracy against him following his charge the the News Of The World had tapped his phones.  Both are perfectly plausible and the incident itself may well have offered the opportunity for those who’ve been wanting to speak up to do just that.

But regardless of more stories coming out, men the world over, particularly in a sport media environment, will continue to have private conversations about women, both in and out of the workplace, that exhibit sexism.  They will even overtly flirt and display boorishness.  This sacking will not change anything – other than men sitting in complete silence in front of recording equipment until they are due to record.


Article: Why graduates face big challenges in a modern economy

Alongside increases in tuition fees, there was a lot of moaning and grumbling about the lack of jobs available for graduates.  Having seen my parents and their peers work incredibly hard to pave the way for our generation, I was growing frustrated at the sense of entitlement that graduates felt – especially given the rise in the number of graduates since 1997.  I felt I had to share my story but also put forth some home truths about graduate employment.

Published on The Vibe.

In my short five and a bit year career, which has taken me from banking and wealth management through to local government and some freelance writing work, I’ve met a qualified orthopaedic surgeon who earns money by cleaning up people’s litter and regurgitated beer at the O2 arena; I’ve met a qualified International Corporate Law graduate who doubles up as a security guard and a qualified pharmacist who unloads lorry-loads of clothes for brands such as Abercrombie, GAP and H&M.


I even know someone who, throughout university, worked 3 days a week and transferred to full-time during the holidays, studying mainly in the evenings and weekends.  Despite not holding a requisite 2.1, was on a graduate programme at a big FTSE-100 company mainly because of his previous experience and, after being made redundant aged 24, found a job again within 3 months in a completely unrelated field earning a salary higher than his previous job, signing up to do a Masters degree while working full-time and commuting almost 2 hours a day to his new place of work.


Throughout my life, I’ve seen what panic is.  My father, for example, came back to Britain in 1992 after a failed move abroad, found his house was repossessed and a wife and kid to look after, with another one popping up 2 years later.  I recall the Fridays where he’d work from 7am to 7pm, before heading out for his 9pm to 9am shift, getting his sleep and starting the next shift from 7pm to 7am from Saturday.  He worked like this for 15 years until he and I were able to buy a property together and I requested him to stop working his fingers to the bone for the sake of his family as we no longer needed to rent anymore.


The orthopaedic surgeon, my brother-in-law, arrived here a year ago with a view to completing a Masters in Surgical Sciences and lives with his wife and four year old son in a room behind a dry cleaners as his course alone is costing him upwards of £27,000 – and he’s been saving money in Bangladesh.


Graduates, like Reni Eddo-Lodge, in the UK can feel aggrieved for apparently having been sold a lie – get a degree, get a job, you’ll be fine.  But it astounds me to know that so many graduates seem to be oblivious to the world around them despite their apparent higher level of intellect and ability.  Why did they believe that this would be the case in the first place? If there are more and more graduates coming out every year, did nobody step out and think that the value of them as graduates alone will never be enough?


With reports coming out of the number of students that didn’t get a place at university, it concerns me that university is still seen as an indicator of our future success.  Of course graduates are important but surely some attention needs to be given to those who will be entrepreneurial as our economy stagnates? What about those who will build on the slow progress being made by the manufacturing sectors here?


Graduates abroad, like China and India, are part of a journey of tremendous economic and social progress.  Graduates in the UK find themselves in an environment where a lot needs to be done but no one seems to have the initiative to lead from the front as they expected an easy ride.  But more than anything, with successive governments having very little idea of the social and economic direction of the country, new graduates have the opportunity to shape so much.


The protests are just the beginning.  Instead of panicking and looking bitterly at the lack of leadership around them, graduates can come together and be a force of tremendous change, instigating a new wave of economic growth and social stability.  Much of what you learn at university is quickly forgotten unless you go directly into a career that exercises that degree in the first place (such as medicine or law) but, even then, you need to pass numerous professional qualifications to reach industry standards.


Viewing the graduate population as the ‘lost generation’ is scaremongering and a lazy view of how society and the world works.  This is not the first time the graduate population will suffer as the economy goes through a critical juncture and it certainly will not be the last.