I find the furore over Sky Sports’ (ex) misogynists-in-chief, Andy Gray and Richard Keys, utterly boring. I agree they should be disciplined, up to and including dismissal, as would be the case in any modern-day workplace. What is amazing to me is that it requires such an incredible amount of consideration and debate.
However, there are two striking aspects to the story which appear in contradiction to each other: the incredible influence both men held over football reporting in Britain and the contrasting weight of abhorrence towards them.
Perhaps I’m too removed from the situation, being on the other side of the Atlantic, but the way the story has been covered over the last five days is on the level of a national disaster. You could be forgiven for thinking it was David Cameron and Nick Clegg who had engaged in “lads’ mag banter”, given the uproar.
Watching and listening to football, it is understandable to occasionally pay attention to what the commentators say. In fact, now and again they come up with an indelible phrase to mark a great moment, or usually a goal. Andy Gray himself may end up being best remembered for his own outburst over a Steven Gerrard strike. Gray also got to play with a host of whiz-bang widgets, which elevated his contribution above “he’ll be disappointed with that”. He was a decent analyst, but how did he get to be more important than the football game he was watching?
As for Keys, I’m genuinely at a loss for what has been lost. He was a slick, inoffensive (on air, at least) segue merchant, of which there are approximately hundreds more who can seamlessly replace him. There are already betting lines on which smug-face will do just that. Sure, that first game without him may be a little awkward, but you’ll quickly get over that because you’re here to watch the football.
Yet as enduring and popular as they were in public, fronting the Sky Football behemoth, it appears they had few friends behind the scenes. The manner in which the incriminating audio and video clips have been released, suggests a conscious collecting and disseminating designed to topple the pair. Although, the person(s) in question only had to wait two months to collect enough damning evidence. Is it the case Keys and Gray only recently starting to make such comments, or that their dismissal of a female assistant referee was the final straw for a long-disgruntled colleague?
Equally, the media has been quick to pounce. It is head-spinning to imagine that less than a week ago neither man provoked more media controversy than debating 4-4-2. Now they are pariahs. In the days since, they haven’t done themselves any favours. Keys in particular, with his incredible ‘life imitating Alan Partridge, imitating life’ interview with TalkSport. Car crash radio, if ever a thing existed. It is another spectacular example of the British media joy in the unraveling of success.
So, farewell to two ‘relics of old-fashioned broadcasting’ and ‘hello, brave new frontier of 21st century football reporting’. Until the next ones drop a bollock of some kind. In between, let’s hope there’s a bit of football to watch.