One indication that football may be dominated by men is that the Football Association has 2 women out of 101 on their voting committee – and even then they only make the tea. If institutional sexism wasn’t enough, the public faces of the beautiful game are also remarkably at home with lazy gender stereotypes.
Richard Keys and Andy Gray, Sky football pundits, have been caught making derogatory remarks off-air about a female linesman during Liverpool’s game with Wolves. In effect they said that having a human being with a labia minora running up and down a bit of grass, occasionally holding a flag up, is enough to send the game into terminal tailspin.
There are many things it may be considered important for a woman to understand in this modern age: the internet and how to drink enough alcohol at the Christmas party to appear happy-go-lucky without ending up locked in a filing cabinet with Steve from Human Resources to name but two. The offside rule shouldn’t come very high on that list, or so Keys & Gray would have you believe.
It could be argued that these remarks were made off-air so it should not matter what they think inside their heads as long as they don’t bring their prejudices with them into the studio – which would make them the world’s first part-time sexists. They could walk into the pub and say “I told them to take down the Page 3 calendar at work today because objectifying women damages their self-esteem and furthers the belief that women are to be gawked at instead of respected as equals. When we finally get some service, the barmaid in here has a cracking pair of jugs”.
Karen Brady, one of the disapproving pair of judgement-providing sleuths that sit either side of Alan Sugar’s permanently perplexed face on The Apprentice, wrote about sexism in football for her column in The Sun on the day the story broke. How did Richard Keys respond? “See charming Karen Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love”. Other than the fact this brings up a horrible mental image of Richard Keys being favoured by Karen Brady, sexually or otherwise, it poses another question. Is he just joking? Having listened to the tape, he doesn’t giggle afterwards in the way that might indicate irony. In fact, he says it in the same register a newsreader would adopt to deliver details of a horrific plane crash in Lebanon. His tone was grave enough to make a doctor in charge of telling patients they have cancer partake in an acting class to improve sincerity.
Kenny Dalglish, the man charged with the unenviable task of making Liverpool play football like they aren’t on crutches, quipped during a press conference whether the Sky Sports representative objected to a female journalist being in the room. His daughter Kelly 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”.
Ultimately, what is sexism? It is the belief that one gender is superior to the other. So having Andy Gray assert his superiority over women is a bit of a cheek. He’s not exactly the master race is he? I have yet to watch him commentate on a football match and not felt the pressing need to rearrange his face.
As the furore reached fever-pitch, Andy Gray was sacked and Richard Keys resigned, not without taking a pop at everyone first. Perhaps the most laughable was his insistence that their sexist banter was to make a new guest feel at home. “One of the reasons we were in overdrive was we had a fresh guest, Matt Murray. We wanted to make him feel relaxed and comfortable”. Yeah, sexist remarks always calm me right down. Whenever I have an important presentation, I always watch a few Roy Chubby Brown videos to leave me feeling relaxed.
As more videos and clips emerged, the most excruciating involved Jamie Redknapp being asked if he “smashed that” in reference to his ex-girlfriend. Then he said Jamie was “hanging out the back” of her, with his legs crossed on the table like a private-school prefect particularly smug about the fart he just let rip. The Sun continued its heralded campaign for sexual equality by placing a saucy picture of Sian Massey, the referee in question, beside the headline “Get ‘em off!” which went on to plead Keys and Gray be sacked.
In summary, a pair of sexists are caught making sexist remarks which are leaked to the media who question why sexism is still so prominent, before the biggest-selling newspaper in the country displays more sexism in one front page than a Sky Sports studio could do in a lifetime, and somehow The Sun appear to be taking a moral high-road. My head hurts.