Behind Britain’s Sordid Soccer Sexism Controversy

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Andy Gray (left) and Richard Keys (right) at the first live 3D TV football match broadcast by Sky

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Now this is what is referred to as an own goal.

Britain’s Sky Sports is widely hailed as having advanced the coverage and perception of U.K. sports, throwing more money and resources at the national sport of soccer as well as pretty much every other game you can name.

But its two main soccer presenters caused a huge stir over the weekend by being caught on mic bemoaning the standard of female officiating.

(See pictures from last year’s World Cup.)

Before Saturday’s Premier League fixture between Wolves and Liverpool, presenter Richard Keys and commentator (and former player) Andy Gray, both thinking their microphones were off, concurred that the match’s assistant referee Sian Massey, as well as other female referees “did not know the offside rule.” As if that wasn’t damaging enough, Keys also took umbrage with West Ham United’s vice-chairman Karren Brady, whose newspaper column on Saturday morning complained about the level of sexism in football.

Effectively confirming her argument, Keys can be heard to say, “See charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love.”

Listen to the audio that has Britain talking for yourself, right here.

Keys and Gray’s remarks haven’t gone down well with their employer. Sky has stood the pair down from Monday night’s game between Bolton and Chelsea, with Barney Francis, the managing director of Sky Sports, saying, “Their comments were totally unacceptable.” Various soccer groups have also weighed in to condemn the remarks and Manchester United and England star Rio Ferdinand took to Twitter to express his outrage: “I’m all for women refereeing in football, discrimination should not happen in our game at all … prehistoric views if u think otherwise.”

(See pictures of former Manchester United and England star David Beckham.)

As for Massey, she got a crucial call correct in the build-up to Liverpool’s first goal and will hopefully have raised a wry smile during Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish’s news conference on Monday. At the start, he asked Sky’s male reporter whether he minded that there was a woman present which, indeed, was another good call. (via BBC)