If ever there was a more symbolic moment of English football’s position of being years off the pace, it was the actions of Sky Sports’ (Britain’s answer to ESPN) main presenters over the weekend. Idolised by many, Andy Gray’s comments over a female official highlighted the “lad” culture of the nation.
Let’s make one thing clear here. Any Englishman telling you that Gray was out of order should probably head down to his local and listen to the conversations that take place every night. It’s a footballing country dominated by alpha-male culture. In fact, the very suggestion that a woman be allowed to officiate caused an uproar on its inception several years ago.
What Andy Gray said was wrong and colleague Richard Keys was no better. In the modern day, comments like that shouldn’t be thought of, let alone muttered under a microphone on the biggest sports channel in the country.
Many in England feel Sky firing Gray and letting Keys resign was over the top, a knee jerk reaction to the ever present mass media coverage the Premier League receives. But this is an island where, and I speak from experience, girls are banned from playing football in schools to prevent the boys’ game being hampered. In fact, I’d never even seen a game between two girls until I moved to Canada four years ago.
It’s a crying shame. So while many may feel empathy for the two, I hope the majority take this as an opportunity to realize that attitudes must change. Bullish, testosterone- fuelled aggression has quite clearly never worked on a world stage for England (well, maybe away from sport it has), so how about something new?
We could start with more money for FA Academies for girls at grass roots levels, and more exposure to the Women’s game. It is 2011 after all. Heck, Keys and Gray could do worse than use their severance packages to help out.
Oh, and while we’re at it, how about Sepp Blatter does us all a favour and realizes the suffragette movement actually happened.