In a bid to strengthen relations with beIN Sports (formerly Al Jazeera Sports) who currently employ Andy Gray, BT Sport have made the decision to hire him to co-commentate on the FA Cup fourth-round tie today between Stevenage and Everton -on a guest basis- with the possibility of further appearances.
This marks Andy Grays’ return to British television commentary after a three year hiatus, during which time he has been a regular on talkSPORT radio and taken part in multiple corporate events, alongside fellow sexist Richard Keys, in a show entitled – and I’m not joking – 'Smash It!'; words used as part of a misogynist aside that Keys made, whilst working for Sky Sports, which was recorded and is available to view online.
Gray also made two misogynist remarks to female colleagues, both of which are indisputable and viewable. One in which he refers to female lino Sian Massey, in which he said – amongst other things – that women didn’t know the offside rule. And another occasion in which he essentially asked female colleague Charlotte Jackson to retrieve a microphone from his crotch.
There are two myths people perpetuate whilst defending Gray.
The first is that his commentary is unparalleled. Gray stood out, only because the boys-brigade pool of pundits and commentators is so catastrophically weak. No-one is forcing BT Sport to employ the pleasant but insufferably dull Michael Owen, for example.
Gary Neville is easily the greatest football pundit on TV today, and his is a relatively new tenure. 'Just shop around' is the answer. Stop favouring the Alans and returning to the same dullards time and again. Switch it up. There are black people and women who are witty and insightful and know about football too. Make it competitive, like in any other industry. For how many years have I got to try and avoid Alan Shearer and his big, red, sweaty head on Match of the Day? Chiles has had a go and he’s awful. BT Sport were so afraid to risk-take when compiling their new sporting line up, they plundered shit football broadcasting from twenty years ago and re-hired the Home Counties proto-lad Tim Lovejoy, who was as shit then as he is now.
There are miles better pundits than Gray is the point, even if we were willing to overlook the sexist abuse of colleagues. Which we’re not.
The second myth is that Sky had a vendetta against Keys and Gray and they were set up. They may have acquired enemies at Sky who wanted them sacked for multiple alleged reasons. They may have also secretly filmed. I’ll level with you, I’m sceptical about that. However, as even a fairly competent six year old can attest; one cannot be secretly filmed being a misogynist arsehole if one is not a misogynist arsehole.
The papers are reporting Gray's return to television but failing to consider the implications this has on BT Sport female employees who are being compromised and asked (either implicitly or explicitly) to work alongside someone with a history of abuse of female colleagues. Further, female football fans are being dismissed and undermined. The two individuals concerned: Sian Massey and Charlotte Jackson are learning that sexist abuse in the workplace is acceptable. And I am rapidly learning that BT are unwilling to engage with me on this issue on any of their social network platforms.
There are bigger issues for women, when we look at rape and domestic violence statistics. There are bigger issues for football, when we look at Qatar. Nonetheless, like Atkinson, those being proven to be publicly abusive in football deserve to permanently lose the right to broadcast.
Gray is tangibly unremorseful too.
BT have a moral obligation to protect women in football and their customers and have shown wilful disregard to both.