I think Andy Gray’s sacking is ridiculous. There, I said it.
On first listen, the evidence is pretty damning. Three separate incidents – one with Richard Keys, one with Charlotte Jackson and one with Andy Burton. You could argue that the sacking is the sum of the parts but if you actually look at the three incidents in question like a reasonable human being, without any preconceptions of Andy Gray and without jumping on the bandwagon – did he do much wrong?
The first leaked audio which featured Gray chatting with Richard Keys is probably the worst of the lot but the real bile is spouted by Keys. Gray makes some flippant remarks about women not knowing the offside rule but isn’t this a joke that’s been doing the rounds since football was invented? I’m not denying that it’s sexist and stupid, especially when you’re ‘in the workplace’ but I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t made a flippant comment at some point which could be deemed sexist (ladies – ever made a joke about men thinking with their dicks?).
Listen to the audio courtesy of the Guardian.co.uk
The second leak, apparently the one that he was actually sacked for, is a video showing Gray asking Charlotte Jackson to “tuck him in”. This is the same Charlotte Jackson who works for hugely popular SKY programme, Soccer AM, the show that has a ‘Soccerette’ take her top off every week and jump up and down on a trampoline. So, it’s okay for on-air innuendo but off-air between people that have worked together for years, is a sackable offence? The uproar around this one baffles me. Russell Brand has basically made a living out of pointing at his crotch and telling girls to do worse things to it than ‘tuck him in’. Would people be offended if it had been the good looking young girl joking with Andy Gray? Or even if it had been the good looking young Russell Brand joking with anyone? This was no more sexist than Andy Gray’s sexual preference is sexist and something to be upset about. If he’d made the joke and directed it at Richard Keys would it have been sexist? This was just banter between co-workers, nothing more.
The third leak is a video of Gray talking to Andy Burton on the touchline, where Burton says that he’d been told the lineswoman was a looker, before saying that he wasn’t sure if he could trust the judgement of the camera-man. Gray says he probably shouldn’t. What’s offensive here? They said she was good-looking, is that offensive to her? Or they said that a man’s judgement might not be very good, is that offensive to her? If anything, they complimented her and criticised a man’s taste. Yes, they were talking about whether she was attractive or not, people do that every day. It’s normal human behaviour. Okay so Gray does also repeat his comment about women not knowing the offside rule here, and it does sound bad but it’s just banter. He might even be old-fashioned enough to believe that women shouldn’t be linesmen but yknow what, he IS old, and being old-fashioned isn’t a sackable offence.
The most recent leak shows Richard Keys talking about Jamie Redknapp “hanging out the back of” an ex-girlfriend. Even I can’t defend that one. If there was any common sense involved here, they’d bring back Andy Gray and sack Richard Keys. Although surely at this point, it’s only a matter of time before Keys gets his P45 too.
Andy Gray has been the voice of Premier League football since its inception. He’s the best commentator around. A lot of people seem to dislike him, it’s funny – I’ve seen United fans joke that Steven Gerrard will be wearing a black arm-band this weekend due to his dismissal, while fans of other teams have said I’m biased because Gray is a United fan. I don’t think he’s ever shown any bias, he just seems to love the sport and love his job. His forthright views seem to rub some people up the wrong way, which I think has clouded a lot of people’s judgement on this. You might not find his sense of humour particularly funny and if he actually believes what he was saying about female linesmen, then his views are certainly misguided, but we need to remember that his job is to be professional ON AIR and he’s never been anything else. I’m not saying he’s blameless – he shouldn’t have criticised the lineswoman and he shouldn’t be making lewd jokes (mainly because they make him look a bit creepy) but these were OFF AIR comments which have been leaked. The main thing he should learn from this is to watch what he says any time a mic is around, because you never know who’s recording you. It was the same type of banter that you’ll hear in every pub every day of the week. The biggest mistake Andy Gray made was assuming he could trust his co-workers enough to chat to them like they were his friends.
It should probably be noted that Andy Gray was already suing the News of the World for phone hacking when these leaks came out from within SKY. Strange coincidence.