Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Commentator Andy Gray fired
LONDON -- One of British soccer's leading television commentators was fired Tuesday, a day after being taken off the air and temporarily suspended for making sexist remarks about a female match official.
Andy Gray, the face of Sky Sports' soccer coverage for the past 20 years, was dismissed by the broadcaster after "new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behavior" that took place off-air last month.
The former Scotland striker and his broadcast colleague, Richard Keys, had been reprimanded and removed from duty Monday for making derogatory comments about lineswoman Sian Massey, former referee Wendy Toms and West Ham executive Karren Brady.
"Andy Gray's contract has been terminated for unacceptable behavior," Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis said Tuesday. "After issuing a warning yesterday, we have no hesitation in taking this action after becoming aware of new information today."
Francis was referring to footage that appears to show Gray making a suggestive comment and gesture toward Sky Sports colleague Charlotte Jackson in the studio.
The outspoken Gray was widely reported to be earning $2.7 million a year from Sky. He worked in studio for Fox Soccer Channel in Los Angeles during the World Cup last year and was an analyst for ESPN at the 2008 European Championship.
London-based law firm Schillings said it has "been instructed by Andy Gray in relation to the termination of his contract by BSkyB."
He made a name for himself with his forthright opinions -- particularly on referees -- and insight into soccer, and for embracing technology to revolutionize the way viewers saw the game.
The 55-year-old Gray was broadcasting the Premier League match Saturday between Wolverhampton and Liverpool when he and Keys made disparaging remarks about Massey, who was officiating the game.
Gray questioned whether Massey knew the offside rule -- a basic rule in soccer -- and made an abusive reference to Toms, saying she had been "hopeless" as a lineswoman.
The remarks were leaked to a Sunday newspaper. More footage that compromised Gray and another member of Sky Sports' commentary team -- Andy Burton -- also was passed to the media. Burton was taken off the air Tuesday.
Burton was talking to Gray off-air on the touchline at Molineux before the kickoff Saturday and said: "Apparently a female lino today, bit of a looker."
In another remark on Massey's appearance, Burton added that another member of the Sky Sports crew said Massey was "all right," adding: "Now, I don't know if I should trust his judgment on that?"
Gray then said: "No, I wouldn't. I definitely wouldn't ... I can see her from here," before swearing and adding: "What do women know about the offside rule?"
Gray didn't publicly apologize for his remarks, unlike Keys, who telephoned Massey on Monday.
Sky Sports hasn't said when or if Keys will return to the air.
Keys and Gray have been widely condemned by media commentators and anti-discrimination groups, with many calling for them to resign or be fired. Others described the exchange between Keys and Gray as tongue-in-cheek banter.
Brady said the comments made her "blood boil," and England captain Rio Ferdinand said their views were "prehistoric."
Gray played his club soccer for Aston Villa, Wolves and Everton, among others, in a career that spanned 17 years. After retiring, he was an assistant coach at Villa but soon turned his focus to a career in the media.
The 25-year-old Massey has been withdrawn as a lineswoman for Tuesday's fourth-tier league match between Crewe and Bradford, the Professional Game Match Officials organization said Tuesday.
"Sian is an excellent professional who has unwittingly found herself in the middle of a story that has nothing to do with her competence as a match official," PMGO general manager Mike Riley said. "Sian only wants to be notable for her performance as an assistant referee and is keen for things to get back to normal so she can return to officiating as soon as possible."