TWENTY or so years ago, sexism was pretty rife, much more so than now. But neither Andy Gray nor Richard Keys would have made the remark then that they made on Saturday lunchtime at Molineux about a woman running the line.
That’s because there weren’t any women running the line then, certainly not in top flight football.
Times change, although some people’s ideas and ideals do stay rooted in a past that, shall we say, middle and older generations well remember.
I confess to growing-up not just thinking football was solely a male preserve but convinced it was.
Even coming up to 20 or so years ago, I reckoned that the game was really about blokes and wasn’t overly convinced about women anywhere in this predominantly male world.
I’d like to think, very quickly too within this time span, my attitude began to change, influenced in large part by (a working!) involvement with women in various branches of the game, including some who were really passionate about it.
I’d like to think my attitude didn’t so much soften as disappear completely.
Not having Sky, for one or two reasons, I can’t recall seeing Andy Gray do his analysis stuff. If ever I’ve been watching in a pub, it’s usually too noisy to hear what he’s saying anyway.
They do say he was good at what he did. He wasn’t very good last Saturday lunchtime and not just because of the sexist comment about assistant referee Sian Massey.
His inability (and that of Keys too) to grasp one aspect of it all undermined both.
Did they not stop to think (or inform us) that Sian Massey - and any other linesman or whatever you want to call them - MUST be good and HAD to be there on merit if they are officiating in the Premier League?
Would the bloke (or woman) making the officiating appointments for last weekend have risked putting a young linesman, man or woman, onto a high-profile, televised Premier League game if they really weren’t up to it? Did the two now ex-Sky blokes have any idea of what she has had to do to get where she is?
Any idea at all what level of the game she actually referees at? Was Gray, therefore, really that good and that well informed? No, they were so blinkered and outdated in their views all they saw was a woman running the line - “so she can’t be up to it because this is football.”
I’m pleased she got that tightest of offside decisions correct when Liverpool got the first goal. So too, I bet, was the other linesman on that game - Chesterfield’s Glenn Turner, one of the top linesmen in the sport - he ran the line at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Oh, and by the way, it’s not only “women” (according to Gray and Keys) who don’t know the offside law. Not so long ago, a former international footballer, now a studio analyst on Match of the Day, confessed he no longer understood it.
Obviously forgetting that it is his job to understand it so he can inform those watching who genuinely don’t.
Of course, Gray’s goose was rightly cooked when the additional footage was leaked out showing him making that offensive remark to a fellow female presenter. Some of the subsequent critical coverage, and the noticeable lack of support for Gray, would indicate that he wasn’t everyone’s favourite person and not overly popular.
For Gray and Keys, top dogs of Sky’s Premier League coverage, an analysis of your departure would make interesting viewing.
Perhaps with a woman presenter!
All this overshadowed one other footballing issue, West Ham’s Frederic Piquionne’s sending off for jumping into the crowd when celebrating a goal. Along came various condemnations and the decision was even described as “a joke”. That may be so, but everybody knows such actions incur a booking - so don’t do it!