Who’s farted?“, said Sky Sports pre­senter Richard Keys to co-hosts Andy Gray and Ruud Gullit back in April, before pro­tes­ting his inno­cence at the smell in the studio. That unguarded remark, which the pre­senter made when he thought he was off air, was acci­dent­ally broad­cast to Dutch TV amid much laughter. The follow up this wee­kend though was far less funny and fouled up the air with a very unplea­sant stench indeed.

During Liverpool’s 3 – 0 win over Wolves, both Keys and ex-striker Gray were caught off air insul­ting female assi­stant referee Sian Massey in her second-ever Pre­mier League per­for­mance. A recording of the pair’s studio sni­ping was passed to the press and revealed their pain­fully unre­con­structed atti­tude towards women.

Why is there a female linesman? Some­bo­dy’s fucked up big.“

The inci­dent which drew their fire was a tight off­side call for Liverpool’s first goal. Dirk Kuyt played a slide-rule pass to the excel­lent Raul Mei­reles who was burs­ting for­ward into the space behind the Wolves defence. Out-of-posi­tion Wolves defender Roland Zubar was playing Mei­reles just onside, and the Por­tu­guese mid­fielder was able to slip a neat ball into the path of Fer­nando Torres for an easy finish. Wolves fans howled for off­side and Keys and Grey up in the studio were aghast to see Massey, 25, not raise her flag:

Richard Keys: Well, some­body better get down there and exp­lain off­side to her.

Andy Gray: Yeah, I know. Can you believe that? Female linesman. Forget what I said – they pro­bably don’t know the off­side rule.

RK: Course they don’t.

AG: Why is there a female linesman? Some­bo­dy’s fucked up big.

RK: I can gua­rantee you the­re’ll be a big one today [a mistake]. Kenny [Dalg­lish, Liver­pool’s manager] will go potty. This is not the first time. Didn’t we have one before?

AG: Yeah.

RK: Wendy Toms.

AG: Wendy Toms, some­thing like that. She was fucking hopeless as well.

Massey though was com­ple­tely cor­rect – and besides, this dis­da­inful exchange was not about her abi­lity. Sky Sports’ top pre­sen­ters decided she was unfit for the job based purely on her gender. Both Keys and Gray can be hel­pful and funny pun­dits, but their eager­ness to judge based on bias rather the facts before them damages their repu­ta­tion as experts“. This was no ironic joke either as the audio clearly shows. Their pre­ju­dice, pure and simple, is unpro­fes­sional.

Mehr Texte zur eng­li­schen Pre­mier League »

Cer­tainly, these remarks were made off air and many would argue the­re­fore that punis­hing the pre­sen­ters for a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion amounts to a gross injus­tice. That is not ent­i­rely cor­rect though: both men knew they were sat in a studio wea­ring micro­phones, sur­rounded by a crew of hard-working col­leagues, pres­um­ably mixed in gender, busy doing their jobs in the vast collec­tive effort required to put their famous faces on tele­vi­sion. What Keys and Gray did is essen­ti­ally to start mout­hing off inap­pro­pria­tely at the office’. No wonder a dis­gruntled col­league took offence and went public with their sexist remarks. A discri­mi­natory work­place should not have to be tole­rated by anyone in the 21st cen­tury.

Sus­pended from covering a Pre­mier League match

It was inte­res­ting then to see Sky Sports’ reac­tion on Sunday evening, one that many will have found ina­de­quate (not least Sian Massey and any women amongst Sky Sports’ five mil­lion sub­scri­bers): The comments were not accep­table“, Sky Sports said. We have spoken to Andy and Richard and told them our views and they have apo­lo­gized and expressed regret.“ The star pre­sen­ters them­selves issued no apo­logy, and only after gro­wing public pres­sure on Monday were they sus­pended from covering that evening’s match bet­ween Chelsea and Bolton.

Com­pared to the after­math of the Ron Atkinson affair in 2004, that punish­ment remains small beer. After ana­ly­zing a Chelsea match for ITV (a ter­restrial UK channel), the former Man­chester United manager dis­graced him­self in an unguarded aside that was acci­dent­ally broad­cast to an audi­ence watching in the Middle East. Marcel Desailly“, said Atkinson, is what some people would call a lazy, thick nigger.“ He was swiftly sacked and ost­ra­cized by most other media.

How to deal with the Pre­mier League pre­sen­ting duo?

With that pre­ce­dent in the public’s mind, Sky Sports now face an uncom­for­table decision on how to deal with their pre­mier pre­sen­ting duo. Anything less than sacking (when con­si­dered along­side Ron Atkinson’s fate) would make the channel look like apo­lo­gists for pre­ju­dice, a label they are unli­kely to relish. The choice of firing their stal­wart foot­ball anchors though is hardly any more appe­ti­zing.

Besides, who would replace them? However much society at wide has changed since Gray and Keys first graced our screens 20-odd years ago, foot­ball does not seem to have adjusted its atti­tudes so much that the next genera­tion of pun­dits will be any more enligh­tened.

Some players’ tre­at­ment of women, if the many sto­ries are to be believed, has dege­ne­rated lar­gely into one long por­no­gra­phic romp. Their wives mean­while are often pneu­matic bimbos who make impo­ve­rished role-models for girls. And machismo still rules the sport supreme: just ask any player who likes to read books rather than have them ghost-written. Or who, heaven forbid, is gay.

But when players are her­me­ti­cally sealed into an ado­lescent world at the age of 17, with a mul­ti­mil­lion con­tract safe-guar­ding them against rea­lity and respon­si­bi­lity, it is hardly sur­pri­sing that they go on to nur­ture chil­dish opi­nions long into what the rest of us call adult­hood. However well media-trained and less gaffe-prone players are beco­ming, there will almost cer­tainly be more dino­saurs.

853 female Refe­rees in Eng­land

That makes Sian Massey’s job harder – but all the more important. She is one of three female offi­cials to have been pro­moted to the Pre­mier League’s ranks and tog­e­ther with her female col­leagues can chal­lenge atti­tudes within the game. For all its nume­rous other sins, the FA deserves credit for encou­ra­ging women offi­cials into the game in increa­sing num­bers (there are now 853 female refe­rees in Eng­land) and stan­ding by them in the face of sexism. Though Frau­en­fuß­ball in Ger­many is well estab­lished, are the DFB doing the same thing or does Bibiana Stein­haus remain a lone example? Simi­larly, what would happen if two German pre­sen­ters made the same remarks, which on the face of it seem far more serious than a Reichs­par­teitag“ slip up? Women who love foot­ball deserve better all around Europe.

Die Titus-Fuss­bal­ling-Eng-zyklo­pädie
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die eng­li­sche Fuß­ball-Kultur auf Deutsch

Folge 23: Dude, where’s my car?
Ach, wer macht das nicht? Seine Schlüssel, Hand­schuhe, oder sein Handy zu ver­gessen. Stellt euch vor, wie viel harter es noch wäre, alles seine Dinge sich zu erin­nern, wenn Man ein Profi-fuss­baller wie Jer­maine Pennant wäre. Der ver­wirrte Winger, der vor­erst von Zara­goza an Stoke aus­ge­liehen worden ist, hat scheinbar ein Por­sche in Spa­nien ver­gessen. Die Spa­ni­sche Polizei haben das Luxus-Auto beim Bahnhof ver­lassen auf­ge­funden, mit seinem Zünd­schlüssel noch auf dem Fahr­sitz. Natür­lich, hat Penn­ants Agent geleugnet, dass einen obszön rei­chen Lebe­mann so achtlos sein könnte. Aber das Auto­kenn­zei­chen hat das Mys­te­rium ver­ratet: P33NNT“. Ey Mann, wo is’ dein Gehirn?