This is just a quick (apologies for any slack writing) blog post written as I sit and listen to the news that football expert/pundit Andy Gray has been sacked by Sky Sports because he is an even greater idiot than was first thought. He has assumed a female co-presenter would be happy to fiddle with his trousers in some way, always a vain hope regardless of the discomfort it must have caused the woman involved. This, added to his other recent faux pas has resulted in his being given the red card.
Everyone must have heard the original story by now. On Saturday football commentator Richard Keys and Gray suggested that Sian Massey, who was running the line at the Liverpool v Wolves match, was incapable of officiating because she is a woman. Apparently they believe there to be some truth in the old joke about women not understanding the offside rule.
Now those that know me understand that I call myself a feminist AND I really enjoy the company of men. And I can take a joke. But this wasn’t funny. Keys and Gray are talking quite seriously. Worse still, a Conservative MP suggested yesterday that feminists (however he chose to define the term) are now the worst bigots. Apparently women are allowed to make disparaging remarks about men and their inadequacies without censure.
However, I would put it, quite simply, like this:
Freedom of speech allows a man to make a joke about women not knowing the offside rule; many women don’t and are not interested in learning it. It isn’t funny any more but hey, there are worse things to get steamed up about than a man telling bad jokes. Similarly a woman can make a remark about a man never being able to sew on a button or iron a shirt and in my view the same rule applies.
However, if the woman was passing comment on the work of a master tailor who has spent many years working long hours as an apprentice and has earned his place on Saville Row, it would be an ignorant and inappropriate remark and should be challenged. If she should be in a position of influence, then that woman should at least apologise publicly – and keep her fingers crossed that she doesn’t lose her job.
That in my view is the rule that applies to Richard Keys and Andy Gray. Ms Massey is a professional. She has worked very hard to get where she is now, taken exams and spent time working her way through the ranks. To referee in the Premiership is a great achievement, regardless of your gender, but as a woman it has an added dimension. I speak from personal experience. That one thing you probably didn’t know about me is – I was a qualified football referee.
In the early 1980’s my friend and I took the referees exams as part of our Duke of Edinburgh Award. She got 100%, I got 95%, higher than all the men. But when it came to actually officiating (a boy’s under 11 match at the local recreation ground) it was horrible. I couldn’t change until all the boys had got their kit on and left the one portakabin dressing room. The parents were all muttering under their breath. It was a nightmare and I hated it to the point of despair. I gave up very quickly. I may always have been rubbish at it, but I will never know.
To illustrate the point further, the video below is of a sketch performed by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse last year:
I believe Andy Gray watched this and thought he had caught the end of Match of the Day.
Football wants to broaden its appeal and it has the potential to be a great sport for all the family. Even as a West Ham supporter I can appreciate the appeal of it to others. But it is still a man’s sport, and I have nothing but admiration for any woman who is prepared to get involved with it at the highest level. They are braver than I was.