* Richard Keys and Andy Gray have been stood down for tonight’s Chelsea match, Sky News reports.
The disciplinary suspension follows an admission within Sky that its initial statement, which pointed out that the comments were not broadcast on air, failed to appreciate the anger caused within football’s corridors of power.
No coincidence that Rupert Murdoch is in town? He wants the phonehacking story closed down and needed decisive action over this additional complication.
Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis said: “I have spoken directly to both Richard Keys and Andy Gray this morning. It has been made clear to each of them that their comments were totally unacceptable.
“Those views are inexcusable, entirely inconsistent with our ethos as a business and employer, and will rightly offend many of our customers, our people, and the wider public. They are inexcusable from anyone at Sky, regardless of their role or seniority.
“We have dealt with this matter by taking immediate disciplinary action. As with any employee it would not be right to go into detail on those proceedings.
“However, they have been clearly warned about their behaviour and reminded of their responsibilities. In addition, Richard and Andy will not be involved in any way with tonight’s live Monday Night Football.”
Kenny Dalglish, who Keys said would go ”potty” over a decision by the female linesman in Saturday’s Liverpool game, hit back at a press conference today when a Sky reporter asked him why there were so many Glaswegian managers in the Premier League.
Dalglish replied: “Is that your last question? So you’re not even going to ask about lady referees? And you want me to answer your questions?”
Pressure is mounting for Richard Keys and Andy Gray to tell Sky Sports viewers on air what they apparently told their bosses after the leaking of their sexist jibe against female referee’s assistant, Sian Massey.
Sky has said that their dismissal of Massey’s credentials was “not acceptable”. Management has “told them our views and they have apologised and expressed their regret.”
Keys made no reference to the affair during yesterday’s Blackburn – West Brom game but a formal apology is the least the pair can offer before tonight’s Monday Night Football clash between Bolton and Chelsea.
His sister’s appearance on a 5Live phone-in this morning, saying he is “not that kind of bloke” won’t be a sufficient mea culpa for Keys.
The veteran presenters’ problem is that not only have they offended many in football buy Sky Sports employs many women, some in senior presenting roles on Sky Sports News, who know the game, offside rule and all and have taken umbrage over the remarks.
Kelly Dalglish, King Kenny’s daughter, who quit Sky Sports for rival ESPN, spoke for her former colleagues, when she tweeted: “Phew am exhausted. Just read about something called ‘the offside rule’. Too much for my tiny brain. Must be damaged from nail polish fumes.”
Comparisons have been made with the Ron Atkinson scandal, when the pundit was removed from ITV after racist off-mic comments. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Sky Sports sacked pundit Rodney Marsh in 2005 after a tsunami/toon army gag was deemed tasteless.
It’s obviously been a tricky encounter for The Sun which today has run another “blistering exclusive” with Karren Brady, the West Ham vice-chairman, also insulted by Keys. She makes no mention in her quotes about the incident, despite describing the comments as “abhorrent” to the Guardian. The Sun, part of the News Corp/BSkyB group of course, is choosing to sit the story out on the bench, awaiting further instructions.
Sky News though, is making a virtue of the affair, reporting the gaffe on its website and running a Boulton & Co poll asking “is football a man’s game?” – er, 58% say yes, so far.
If not resolved satisfactorily and publicly, the incident will also give footie-loving MPs another stick to beat News Corp with just as the debate over the company’s intended full purchase of BSkyB intensifies.
Sky Sports has brought many innovations to its football coverage over the past two decades but it looks like the blokeish ”locker room” mentality -watch Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday when the old players’ panel discuss female club administrators – has to go.
Someone should be crafting a full screen apology for Keys & Gray, this time with the mic turned up for all to hear.
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. Kenny [Dalglish, Liverpool's manager] will go potty. This is not the first time. Didn’t we have one before?
RK: Wendy Toms.
AG: Wendy Toms, something like that. She was fucking hopeless as well.
RK: No, no, it’s got to be done, it’s good. The game’s gone mad. See charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love.