Does Andy Gray’s downfall reveal Sky’s murky clouds?

Andy Gray may have shown weaknesses for arrogance and vulgarity. He may scarcely have deserved £1.7m a year however good he was considered to be as Sky’s principal football pundit and analyst. But, asks Birflatt Boy, could questionable motives be at play in the broadcaster’s haste to throw the book at him? …

Andy Gray has been sacked after countless years of acting as the linchpin of Sky’s football coverage. There are a lot of people who seem as if they couldn’t care less about his dismissal, or are very pleased to see the back of him.

Even the most unpopular presenters were probably popular at some time. Gray has become increasingly arrogant in the eyes of many viewers who have also reached a state of boredom akin to rigor mortis with his diagrams and tactics board.

These viewers are not crying in their beer at his disappearance.

To many, it is just a relief that he is gone, regardless of whether his comments about Sian Massey were the reason for his dismissal. Interestingly in the wake of the news that he has been fired, more “evidence” of Gray’s improper conduct appear in the media.

This time it is an “off camera” comment to his co-presenter Charlotte Jackson. In the 12-second or so clip which has now reached YouTube, Gray pulls at his belt at the same time that Jackson is clipping on her microphone, and asks her if she will “tuck this down here” or words to similar effect.

What we do not see in this clip is any reaction from Jackson, nor do we see any preamble to this unguarded moment. Ms Jackson hasn’t made a complaint about her colleague’s comments and we have no idea what led to this incident (if anything).

There is some other background to events of course. Gray is at the centre of legal action against the News of the World (NOTW) for alleged phone tapping. NOTW is also owned by his (until recently) employer at Sky; one Rupert Murdoch. Is this all a coincidence?

Sky has also released other footage containing yet more comments about the assistant referee, Sian Massey with the Sky reporter Andy Burton.

This conversation contains a discussion about Massey’s appearance after Burton says the cameraman describes her as “a bit of a looker”. Burton wonders whether they should trust his judgement, to which Gray replies “Nah, I wouldn’t. I definitely wouldn’t.”

This “incident” has been released by Sky in the wake of Gray’s dismissal and Richard Keys’s apology to Massey, which she has reportedly accepted.

This has been cited as the latest example of Gray’s “unacceptable behaviour.” I doubt there’s a man alive that hasn’t had that same conversation with a work colleague or friend. That doesn’t make every man (or even just Andy Gray) a sexual predator. It’s just the way it is.

Maybe his comments about Sian Massey were inappropriate. Does this mean that a man deserves to be dismissed for what he said?

Sky broadcasts several live football matches each week, during which I will wager there will be several close up views of players clearly yelling “F*** off!” at the referee. Are these players yellow or red carded, or fined by their clubs, for this behaviour?

Of course not. Yet, who has committed the greatest offence. I’ve yet to see any comment from Sian Massey about these events, so I have no idea to the extent that she may have been offended if at all.

Sky seems desperate to unearth more dirt about Andy Gray.

I hold no brief for the man at all, but can’t help feeling that there may be other hands pulling the strings behind these events. If this latest example of “unacceptable behaviour” is the worst example at their disposal then they are desperate indeed.

18 thoughts on “Does Andy Gray’s downfall reveal Sky’s murky clouds?”

  1. Geoff Mangan says really hope Sian Massey gets well received at upcoming games, this could make or break her. I suspect she would be better received than Keys or Gray.
    Interesting that her first game was at the Stadium v Blackpool. How was our crowd to her then?

    Well I hurled the usual obscenities at her – for calling our lads offside 2 or 3 times in the 2nd half – but no worse than those directed at her male counterparts
    On viewing MOD that night – her decisions – were quite correct – as are the vast majority of assistant refs decisions – they make good calls 99% of the time

  2. I have said far worse (oh my goodness, so much worse) as have so many men up and down the country in every environment you can think of – however, Sky have dealt with them correctly.
    After reading the comments, I think the key point (no pun intended) point has been missed.
    Both are the very public face of Sky Sports. Their comments became a major problem because they have been made public and therefore seriously undermine their credibility, impartiality and objectivity as commentators. Had they been allowed to stay in their posts, it would have also undermined Sky’s credibility (sorry – credibility and a Murdoch organ in the same article doesn’t really work, but you know what I mean).
    Clearly someone had so much dislike for the pair that the footage was publicised and the word ‘arrogance’ is now often used. Their heads were clearly to far up their own bums and what goes around comes around.
    Banter exists and is great fun in the right place and amongst the right people but Gray’s comment to Charlotte Jackson wasn’t banter. It was pathetic and ignorant.
    Still, the story has made some great reading.
    I really hope Sian Massey gets well received at upcoming games, this could make or break her. I suspect she would be better received than Keys or Gray.
    Interesting that her first game was at the Stadium v Blackpool. How was our crowd to her then?

  3. They committed the ultimate sin of being caught. Wait a respectable amount of time then rehire them for a third of what they were being paid.

  4. Pleased I don’t have a Sky Box. Who are these people? Maybe they can take the dreadful Shearer from Match of the Day – we live in hope!

  5. Great summation Malcolm; I have to say. It is all about context and perceived confidentiality. The truth really is that Sky or whoever was responsible really had no business in allowing the initial clip to be released (assuming my understanding of events is correct). Remarks made off camera should not be released as both Gray and Keys would have some expectation of privacy at that time. It seems that Sky must be steadily releasing more “evidence” as they uncover it to strenghten their case.

  6. Arguments on both sides carry some weight and I find it hard to be too dogmatic about the rights and wrongs. What I do know from experience though is that people’s senstivities differ and what is seen as an innocent, humorous remark by one can be seen as offensive or aggressive by another.

    I suppose I picked up from my dad that what is acceptable in some situations is not in others. For instance, when I played footy and cricket I had no problem with four letter words in the changing rooms, but when I was supervising Primary School kids in the local Leisure Centre I used to feel offended when adults used the same words in their presence.

    A classroom is not a factory floor and neither is a TV studio. Different standards will and should apply to different environments and situations.

    Likewise people develop working and social relationships with colleagues and different norms apply. I have no problem when someone I know calls me a daft twat in the pub but I might take offence if it were a shop assistant I’ve asked for advice.

    Then there is the vexed question of intent. I don’t think Keys and Gray expected to have their comments conveyed to the ref’s assistant so probably didn’t mean offence nor do I believe they actually think women don’t know the offside rule. Of course they would know you don’t get to run the line in the Premier League if you don’t have a better understanding of the rules than players, managers and pundits.

    Finally, whilst I struggle to understand the current offside law having been brought up under the 1960s and 70s interpretations let me tell you of the worst decision I have ever seen.

    It happened at a non league game about 6 years ago. A goalkeeper took a goal kick and didn’t make a decent contact. The ball went to an attacker about ten yards inside the goalie’s half. He ran on and put the ball in the net. The lino flagged and the ref gave an indirect freekick for offside.

    Now there’s about six things why it isn’t offside but both officials were at fault. I won’t tell you what gender they were but neither was of the same sex!

  7. The big question Mr Hanrahan is whether the law would have been enforced in such a way in a baker’s shop, factory or petrol station in the way that it has been brought to bear here.

    Some of us are arguing based on personal experience in the workplace, that this is seldom the case.

    More importantly, there is still the question of how the initial incident came to light. Gray and Keys have been doing this job for over 18 years. Have they suddenly both become sexist pigs? The recent clip which shows the pair of them with Redknapp Jnr, Souness and Gullit is undated but the presence of these particular guests suggests it is not recent.

    If off camera moments capturing people having a chat were used in this way in the workplace we’d all have been dismissed by now!

  8. Gray was sacked for speaking and behaving in a way that flagrantly breaches basic employment law in the UK. It’s irrelevant who he is or in what field of work. The law does not discriminate on that. So, Sky had to act on that basis. If it hadn’t, they could have had a flood of cases from all female employees and lawyers would have advised them it’s a no-brain loss. There is no conspiracy. And the law in this case is not an ass. Gray, who has become dull as have most football analysts, dug his own grave. Best Villa centre-forward I’ve seen though.

  9. Yes, BB, and even though I am a journalist, I am not blind to the staggering hypocrisy of the media, print and electronic, in exploiting to the full the looks of both Sian and Charlotte to illustrate stories in which we are implicitly invited to be outraged by Gray’s sexism.

  10. Luke has it spot on for me. As Davey lad says, people might be only one comment away from the sack, but that’s it. People rarely get the sack for making comments of the same nature as those made by Gray.

    The other fact which has been pointed out is that Gray’s female co-presenters are there on looks alone. The obvious reason for that is so that countless millions of bloke tune in because “she’s a tidy bit of tackle!” They can hardly adopt the moral high ground when Gray is stood five feet away from her in the same studio and responds like their viewers are supposed to. Total hypocrisy.

  11. Without an official complaint from both parties I see this as unfair or even constructive dismissal, Political correctness gone made and Sky can hardly believe they are on the moral high ground

  12. With the greatest of respect lads, you’re missing the point; he’s suing Murdoch and works for Murdoch. I think the bloke is a terrific bore, like listening to paint dry, but he’s been sacked because of his employer’s agenda. Sue them, take some money, but please don’t come back Andy. Cheers.

  13. If any bloke tells me they haven’t had a similar conversation at work , I’ll know they are lying . It’s a boy / man thing , and it must be even more difficult to supress when working for a company that employs females based on “looks” first and foremost

  14. The Sian Massey comments did not merit dismissal. She accepted Richard Keys’s apology and would presumably have done likewise with Gray who apparently claims he was ordered to have no contact.

    The less charitable view of the Charlotte Jackson incident is that it was an offensive form of workplace bullying by an exalted Sky figure of a relatively junior colleague and left her visibly uncomfortable.

  15. Every work place I’ve ever been at has “Murky Clouds”… or risque slapstick banter … which is what it really is.

    A lot of my working life has been spent on factory shop floors dominated by women… and anyone in a similar position will know that they’re worse than the blokes when it comes to this kind of banter. You either choose to go along with it or get labelled a soft puff. Personally, i embraced it and give it back. Besides, it’s just seaside postcard humour IMO. However, you need to know you’re only one dodgy comment away from the sack.

    This sort of stuff happens day in, day out in every work environment. Some take offence, most play along with it. Personally I think the Gray/Keys situation has been something of a witchhunt and totally out of order. Ultimately though… he has no defence… none of us who’ve ever made a comment with even the slightest hint of sexism or sexual inuendo have unfortunately. It’s a sad state of affairs.

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