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.