I realise that this is a football-related comment and many will think its place is on my football-specific blog, but this addresses a wider issue so I'm putting it here. Many of you will doubtless be familiar with the leaked conversation between Sky presenter Richard Keys and his analyst colleague, former pro-footballer Andy Gray. In case you're not, in an exchange in which they believed their mics were off, before Sky's coverage of Wolves versus Liverpool on Saturday, they considered the appointment of a female linesman;
Keys: "Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her."
Gray: "Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule."
Then, later, Keys: "The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love."
Well, do me a favour, boys. This exchange took place before the game, a game in which Sian Massey, the linesman in question, distinguished herself by getting the major decision (every game has one), from which Liverpool scored their first goal, spot on. But no matter - she'd been weighed, measured and judged by the two 'experts' on her gender alone, before a ball had been kicked.
The fact is, she'll have gone through exactly the same training, assessment and fitness regime as the men, or she wouldn't be there. All the fans want is competence. Frankly, they could put a trained gibbon on the bloody line, as long as it gets the big ones right, I wouldn't care and I suspect most others wouldn't either. I didn't hear the ref and linesman (both men) who missed a stick-on penalty during the Blackburn-West Brom game get stick for being blokes, despite showing a level of competence some way below that of Ms Massey.
I'm a footy fan, not some great gender equality polemicist, but this is absolutely typical of my main gripe with Sky these days. Keys and Gray exemplify the lazy, complacent, old boys' club attitude that seems to come across from them during their live games especially, in stark contrast to their superb coverage of cricket, or Jeff Stelling's excellence on the Soccer Saturday show on Saturday afternoon. But they've dominated live football coverage for so long that they clearly see themselves as part of the establishment and consequently obviously think they can behave so smugly with no fear of any backlash.
I'd sort of expect it from Gray, given the era he played in and the almost exclusively male world in which his entire career has placed him, but Keys in particular should know better, working as he does at a company which employs some excellent female broadcasters. Perhaps Sky should consider moving Georgie Thompson, who knows her sport inside out if her appearances on League Of Their Own are anything to go by, onto the flagship live football coverage. She'd certainly not hamstring it with the sort of glib complacency that his exchange with Gray typifies.
But I'm not holding my breath. The next time they appear on TV together, as no doubt they will, I can't see Sky actually doing anything about this after all, they'd better at least look like they mean it when they say sorry.