So, Andy Gray has lost his job. The totem of Sky Sports' live broadcasting of Association Football. Sacked. From the City Ground in 1992 when football was invented on the first 'Super Sunday' with Teddy Sheringham's winner against old football's Liverpool to Liverpool's 3-0 win at home to Gray's old team Wolves at Anfield 19 years later. Gray has stood astride our national game with Richard 'Keysie' Keys. A far less smug version of Eddie and Stevo - Google them Southerners. He turned down the chance to prove his football knowledge minus the front half of a Dixons shop when he was offered the Everton job. Happy to point out what current professionals were doing wrong with a touch screen and a magic marker. Gifting terrace fuckwits catchphrases to shout out for a £1.7m-a-year paypacket. In the scheme of things a fraction of what Sky make from the game they invented. Like him or not, he was good at what he did. And he was sacked. For being a man.
I have to admit my football viewing comes from trailing around the country watching Bradford City lose. My TV football viewing comes from getting in after the pub shuts and watching Match of the Day at x30 on Sky+ at 3am, seeing the back half of the Super Sunday game at my folks when I go round for Sunday dinner, completely ignoring Colin fucking Murray and Match of the Day 2, and occasionally catching Monday Night Football (MNF) if there's not a clashing documentary on about the Solar System on BBC4. So I don't listen to what pundits think. I don't read about football in the nationals - they don't cover Bradford City - I don't listen to the dribblings of complete fucking morons on national radio whining about their Premier League clubs whose grounds I've probably been to as an away fan more than they have as a home fan, and I've no interest in reading about non-Bradford City related football on the internet. But even despite this I know and recognise that Andy Gray was very good at his job. And that he was sacked simply for being a man.
Here I am then, writing this, after fate dropped Bradford City in the middle of the whole sorry saga. It's the early hours, just several after unfortunate inbetweener Sian Massey was due to be linesman for City's away match at Crewe. City lost 2-1. To 10 men. Massey predictably and rightly pulled out of the fixture fearing the focus would be on her, not the football. This left the likes of The One Show, The Sun and assorted national media ghouls wondering why the fuck they were at Gresty Road, who the fuck James Hanson and Clayton Donaldson were, and wasn't that the fella that was in charge of England for one game? I would have been there myself had my obligations to the Airedale Quiz League not taken priority. We beat Haigys Bar for those who care. I also won £20s worth of ale in the pub quiz after, so not a bad night in all.
The innocuous comments of Andy Gray and Richard Keys have sadly and predictably left the vocal minority falling over themselves to be the most outraged
So what was it that Gray and Keysie did that was so wrong? Well, in a nutshell, nothing. Reading and even viewing what was said sparked by Sian Massey's presence, there's quite simply nothing there for anyone to be offended about. Apart from perhaps those whose job it is to be professionally offended. And there's plenty of them these days. There's a whole industry built up around it. Here we had two men, talking, in private like two men up and down not only this country, but every country in the world have done since the dawn of time. Comments that were not made on air, comments that two people who, lets say have worked together for twenty years - a fifth of a century - might share between themselves. Comments that men make in offices, building sites, changing rooms, and pubs each and every day. Listening to the conversation is like listening to any two ordinary blokes in any football ground discussing the unusual occurrence of woman turning up at a ground as part of the officiating team. If you're claiming to be offended by Keysie and Gray's discussion then you've quite clearly got another agenda. Maybe you just don't like Andy Gray or Richard Keys. Maybe you don't like Sky or what it's done to football.
The innocuous comments of Andy Gray and Richard Keys have sadly and predictably left the vocal minority falling over themselves to be the most outraged - from the nationals, to Twitter and TV but if you're going to sack a grown man on the basis of a conversation he's having with his mate then there's going to be an awful lot of blokes in the dole queue and George Osborne will be cutting a rather forlorn figure when he's trying to explain away the subsequent downturn in the economy on something other than the weather. Perhaps most tellingly and even more predictably in the victim and blame culture society we seem to inhabit now the laughable line of 'Well if they'd said that about a black person they'd both be sacked' has been rolled out. Well I'm sorry, but if my aunt had a set of bollocks she'd be my uncle. Karen Brady became involved - a woman who stood up for the women's rights by working for porn peddler David Sullivan, proved that women didn't just watch football to oggle men's legs by marrying professional footballer Paul Peschisolido and who is currently doing sterling work with the club she'd like to rename West Ham Olympic. Maybe one day a tape of her off the record and personal thoughts on Avram Grant might surface...
whilst the 'women have no idea about offside' jibe pre-dates Les Dawson's superb mother-in-law jokes. If you're offended by that you've quite clearly been frozen in ice since the 1950s
This is not a 'but Miss, all the other boys were doing it' defence. There's quite simply nothing to defend. The discussion as to whether 'she's a bit of a looker' is something every man has either as an internal monologue or with his mates every time any woman comes into view - and if you watch ITV's 'Loose Women' you'll see plenty of women think along the same lines. If discussing whether a woman is attractive or not is taboo then blokes may as well walk round with gaffer-taped mouths self-flagellating, whilst the 'women have no idea about offside' jibe pre-dates Les Dawson's superb mother-in-law jokes. If you're offended by that you've quite clearly been frozen in ice since the 1950s.
Of course if you're cynical, you might come to the conclusion that perhaps Mr Gray had upset someone at Sky. After all both he and Keysie seemed to be equally vocal yet thus far only Gray's been sacked. Why would a co-worker decide to grass on a colleague? Why now? We've not got to look too far back to see what may be the real reason for his departure from the Murdoch Empire. The leaked tapes come just a few days after his decision to start legal proceedings against the News of the World and the phone hacking scandal. And it's this that offers a far more rational explanation for someone losing their job than simply a normal, private, match day conversation between two men.
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