Sky Sports sacking shouldn’t have been a gray area.

The issue

The last week has seen a phenomenal reaction to off air comments made by Sky Sports duo Andy Gray and Richard Keys. Let’s just remind ourselves of what they said.

Yes, it’s sexist.

Now, first things first, it’s disappointing to see these comments made. To suggest women can’t officiate or know the offside is unquestionably sexist. Clearly, they are not appropriate, but nor has been the reaction been from almost every quarter.

Firstly, the comments are made off air. They were not for the public domain. Do we really believe that we live in an age where if we took the off air comments of every presenter or pundit on our screens we wouldn’t find something on a par with Keys and Gray from a majority of them? I have my sincere doubts.

Take even this BBC News presenter last year who questions “who’d be looking at Madonna’s ears” as one such example of where even an ‘on air’ comment received no attention (from 1.05 onwards). Just think what goes on off air.

Jeremy Clarkson has come out to argue this precise point. He’s said (in his Sun column) that he and his colleagues would have been sacked ‘100 times over’ if their off air comments had been played out. I hope everyone who has rejoiced at Gray and Keys leaving immediately starts a campaign for the end of Top Gear. Failing to do so would be hypocritical.

This also tells us two things. One that it is not unusual to see this sort of talk in a TV workplace environment and secondly that somebody had it in for Keys and Gray.

Make no mistake about it – somewhere in the BBC archives must be clips of their employees being sexist, but they likely won’t get out – as the Daily Mail wrote last week it was an “anonymous source” who provided the material from Sky. If there was truly no ‘stitch up’ why on earth would the provider of these clips need to remain in the dark. Why wouldn’t Sky executives just come out and say they heard the clips, found them unacceptable and therefore Gray/ Keys needs to go.

Max Clifford, a man who is regarded as one of the leading PR experts in the country is in no doubt. He told the Daily Mail “Obviously, they’ve been stitched up. Someone has got it in for them, got hold of this and sent it out.”



Why they want them out – we can only guess. Of course that Andy Gray is investigating the News of The World over alleged phone tapping has been circulating as a major reason. That they (Sky) also need to appear whiter than white ahead of the impending decision to be made by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt over the full buyout of BSkyB by News Corporation another suggestion for the quick decisive action. We don’t know though – rumours will circulate on the internet, conspiracies will be drawn up and discussed – but all that matters is that they’ve gone.


New Clips

The additional clips that have been revealed should  perhaps not be of great surprise, but some perspective is called for. We have all now seen a clip of Andy Gray asking Charlotte Jackson (above) to tuck his microphone in – apparently a clip that pushed Sky Executives over the edge. I’m sorry but that I believe this to be absurd. Type Charlotte Jackson in on google and tell me this is a girl who looks like she would be easily offended. Personally I don’t believe that a girl who ‘bears all’ for NUTS magazine would be offended by what Gray said.

We see a ten second clip and immediately are told to draw conclusions – how can we tell what sort of relationship these two people have? How do we know she doesn’t give the equivalent ‘banter’ back to him? This is after all a girl who told the ‘lads-mag’ NUTS in an interview in May 2009 that the sort of bloke she normally goes for “has to have banter.” The irony.

As for anyone showing sympathy for Karen Brady – this is a woman who was at the centre of a scandal last week where it was so obvious she was trying to sack a manager that the replacement she had lined up refused to take the job because he was so embarrassed. This is also a woman who for last 20 years has been in business with David Gold and David Sullivan – two men who made their millions out of the pornography industry. Do me a favour love.



It’s unfortunate what Gray and Keys were caught saying what they did, of course, but the idea that they should be sacked is absurd. They’ve expressed an opinion off the record, an opinion they have made clear they regret.

I hope the prominence of women in the game increases – and that more referees arrive on merit, but those who think removing Keys and Gray was necessary have lost the plot.

Update: The best thing I’ve read on the matter was by Charlie Brooker in the Guardian on Monday Jan 31st. Have a read.

5 Responses to “Sky Sports sacking shouldn’t have been a gray area.”
  1. josh colman says:

    I agree with everything in the blog. This sort of chat takes place in every pub across the country, all business, top law firms and banks.

    I imagine if Andy or Richard knew these comments would offend the people involved, they wouldn’t be making those sort of comments so openly and to their face. If these comments were taken as offensive I imagine there would have been some sort of formal complaint put into Sky.

  2. Anna says:

    Joshy, agree with some of what you say, and liked the Charlie Brooker article. Personally I don’t think it was necessary to fire them, maybe just make them do a documentary on the setbacks women face in sport or something so they educate themselves. But a couple of points:
    1. I don’t think the Madonna comment is equivalent – Madonna dresses provocatively to draw attention to her body, so I don’t think she can complain if people then comment on it. That’s entirely different to suggesting that someone cannot do their job because of their gender.
    2. Would you be saying the same if it was a Jewish linesman and the commentators were saying “he’s a yid, what the hell do they know about football”? And Josh Colman, would you be happy if people responded to that by saying, big deal, it’s what we all say when there are no yids around?

    • joshlandy says:


      1) The point was to highlight that people make sexist comments – even on air and it gets next to no attention when it doesn’t need to or when people in positions of power don’t want them to. How much more so off air… there must be a lot of footage out there of probably the most squeaky clean saying ‘inappropriate’ stuff.

      Also, If Gary Neville, having retired yesterday becomes the new Sky Sports pundit it will be incredibly unsubtle that Sky just wanted to get rid of Gray.

      2) No we wouldn’t. In primary school it was always ‘football for girls’ ‘netball for boys’ – I’m not saying that’s right, but that is what it was (is) – and thus that anti woman feeling in football prevails. I don’t think that inbuilt sentiment occurs against Jews in football… nor can I see a situation where it would. Thus there would be an issue if someone said Jews/ Muslims/ whoever can’t be involved – I think that would suggest genuine prejudice – not simple male/female banter.

  3. Jak Codd says:

    Have to disagree with you a bit here Landy! Bear in mind this comes from someone with very little knowledge/interest in football… However, your assertion that Charlotte Jackson can’t complain because she has posed in Nuts Magazine seems a bit flawed. Firstly, I’m not sure what her opinion is of the whole situation – but, the real issue seems to be about how women viewers would feel about Sky Sports & their presenters saying lewd comments such as those reported. Charlotte Jackson herself may or may not be offended, but what about the thousands of women up and down the country who tune into Sky Sports that are? Surely that has to be a consideration for Sky? To me the whole premise of your argument doesn’t seem right. If you met a porn star on the street, would you it was OK to grope her because of her line of work? I doubt it. Thus, I don’t think because Charlotte Jackson has had some paid work in men’s magazines before means she should be subjected to those kinds of comments. What she does to make money outside of her presenting role shouldn’t really be a factor in how she is treated in the studio.

    I really do think the main issue here is how this makes women sports fans feel in general, rather than the reaction of one female presenter.

    Great post though – I might start commenting more often!

    • joshlandy says:


      Thanks for the reply…

      Firstly, I think we are reading this example of Charlotte Jackson in a different way. But let’s deal first with the clip of her, not of sian massey.

      I’m saying that we have no idea of their relationship (Gray and Charlotte). She has put herself in a situation where she has said she likes ‘banter’ and presents herself in a certain way in that interview that makes it hard to believe she would be offended. When it comes to an off air comment where all Gray has done is ask her to tuck his mike in – the only person who could be in that situation is her, because only she knows how they two people relate. (This is different to the lineswoman comment). The way someone you know saying that comment to you and a complete stranger is totally different. From the outside it’s hard to be so judgemental. We see 10 seconds of probably a 3 hour show or which 20-30 mins will be off air… it’s too small a clip to start drawing conclusions.

      I’m not saying she automatically deserves to have Gray’s kind of comment ‘thrown’ at her – but I find it hard to see how someone can present themselves in one light and then not take what we saw as a bit of banter. I don’t think this is the same as groping a porn star I’m afraid – though by all means if you need an excuse… I would however think it’s ok to have a bit of banter with them – perhaps ask when they plan on losing their virginity? I don’t know, I haven’t done much porn star banter.

      Now, in regard to the more general discussion over whether all women would be offended by the original comments – it’s obviously split. Some are, some aren’t. I personally don’t think it’s meant in a malicious manner – rather it’s immature and inappropriate – that is for me, not sackable.

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