I don’t know what is surprising me more. The surprise of the world regarding Andy Gray and Richard Keys comments or the media’s leap onto the bandwagon to condemn them.
Firstly, lets look at what ‘Greys’ actually said. If you are one of the few that hasn’t heard feel free to listen here (this was of course just the start and there was plenty more to come).
Was it really that bad? In a world of sexual innuendo and political correctness was anyone really offended. I wasn’t. Maybe my offensive detector is smaller than the norm but I’ve heard far worse directed at myself in the pub because I dare to know anything about football. What disappointed me more was that they couldn’t come up with a more original female in football comment. Not excusing what was said but both these men are of a different era and when they were growing up the only woman in football was the tea lady, so to them it was probably just a bad joke. And as much as many try to deny it, I secretly suspect many men said the exact same thing when they saw Sian Massey on Match of the Day. But luckily for them it was in the privacy of their own home and no one managed to release a recording of it onto one of the world’s biggest websites.
Let us all be honest, comments like this are nothing new to those of us involved in football in whatever capacity that may be. I suppose we should be glad that this issue has gained so much exposure because it shows that when all is said and done, some people still have reservations regarding women in football. But like I said to someone today; Greys are merely two small fishes in a much larger pond.
Is it any surprise that people think it is acceptable to make comments such as theirs when they are in an industry or paid by organisations, that has been slower than any other to diversify the sex of their staff in the genre of sport?
Lets look at the calibre of some of the female newsreaders in the Sky Sports News newsroom? The lack of coverage of female football. Look at the number of female presenters on radio stations such as Talk Sport and Radio 5 Live or the ‘tone’ of these stations’ advertisements, particularly the former. Or at any sports desk at any newspaper or magazine. The male to female ratio is staggering and although it has improved it will be a hell of a long stretch before it is anywhere near equal.
There is a frighteningly long way to go for women in football because it started as a male game. And like any single sex industry it will take many years for it to become fair for all those involved. Many men will tell you they had to work harder in their female dominated industry to be taken serious and unfortunately I know the same stands for our national game. But the change has to start at the top and filter through, as one person will not be enough for it to change overnight. The companies/organisations/news outlets need to start looking at themselves because their actions infect those of their staff. The sacking of Andy Gray may be the big news right now but it will be chip paper soon enough. Just like Mike Newell’s comments about Claire Toms, was years ago. How many of you remember them now?
This behaviour has been going on for years and let’s not be disillusioned, it will continue because it is human nature to comment on the opposite sex. Whether that is right or wrong is not for me to judge. Everyone will have a different opinion but just because you don’t agree; does that mean their beliefs are wrong? But ask yourself this: If I had made the same comments about a male linesmen as ‘Greys’, would we all be having this conversation?
We can all agree we wouldn’t.
Written by Natasha Henry