The fourth round of this season’s FA Cup was always bound to herald a surprise or two. Giuseppe Sannino’s Watford shocked Manchester City early on in their fixture before eventually being strong-armed into submission.
Cup holders, but now Championship hopefuls, Wigan Athletic defeated Tony Pulis’ resurgent Crystal Palace in another impressive display.
Perhaps most surprising was the return of Andy Gray. Employed as a guest commentator to cover the welcome absence of Michael Owen, the Scottish broadcaster appeared on BT Sport’s coverage of Everton’s routine 4-0 win away to Stevenage.
Gray and his long-standing accomplice Richard Keys were ousted from their positions at Sky Sports in 2011, after being caught making derogatory remarks about female assistant referee Sian Massey.
This was followed by the leak of further footage, showing Gray making a lewd “tuck me in” gesture towards fellow presenter Charlotte Jackson before a Sky Sports broadcast. To make matters worse, Keys recently took to Twitter to defend their actions; he branded the treatment of Gray a scandal, with the rationale of “we were bugged.”
Unfortunately, the abominable, sexist behaviour of Messrs Keys and Gray is endemic within modern football. Centuries-old stereotyping, of the lesser, domestic female, is nothing new. However, the rise of lad banter culture has only served to perpetuate these issues.
Keys and Gray’s approach towards the offside rule, with Gray commenting “women don’t know the offside rule,” is the laziest derogation of women within football today.
This could even be seen with the recent release of a 50 pence piece explaining the offside rule, serving to commemorate the 2012 Olympic Games. This is something now intrinsically ingrained within our culture. While the offside rule is an oft-debated grey area within world football, all of these are factors in a stain wearing into the reputation of the women’s game.
It is quite likely that the most recent video of Keys and Gray to be leaked was timed to coincide with the return of the latter to the British media.
A week after the Everton game, YouTube channel The Football Ramble released a video of the pair apparently jeering at fellow professional Clare Tomlinson from off-camera with the familiar football chant “get your tits out for the lads”. The authenticity of the video remains questionable, but it is far from out of the question with Keys and Gray.
Unfortunately, Gray’s uncanny knack of coining a phrase serves him well within a fickle-natured football fandom. His berserk reaction to Steven Gerrard’s late half-volley against Olympiakos in 2004 will live forever in the memory of many.
However, much like an Emile Heskey joke, his presence will forever linger without its discouragement.
The reality is that the behaviour of Andy Gray is fundamentally prehistoric, and shouldn’t be encouraged. The fact that the return of Gray to British commentary shores coincides with the release of yet another misogynist diatribe serves to underline how out of touch football punditry is, particularly with women’s football taking such great strides in recent years.
As Sky Sports have shown in recent years, there is a wealth of intelligent and measured young pundits available within the game. Hopefully BT Sport takes note and give someone more deserving a chance.