Gray and Keys unlock cause for celebration

by Charlie Coffey

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The ‘scandal’ surrounding the sexist comments of Andy Gray and Richard Keys should really be a celebration. Two of the most respected, experienced men in English football television have been corrected in an offside dispute by a female official who let her judgement do the talking, and the attitudes of an older generation of men have been highlighted and ridiculed. It has also exposed the press as being either over-cautious without a true freedom of speech, or simply ignorant of the male inhabitants of their own country.

While most people reading the news yesterday (apart from maybe Daily Mail readers to whom the sting was perfectly targeted) are aware that some men of a certain age still carry out-dated social sentiments that are discussed in private (or in the case of Keys and Gray into a functioning microphone), the only ones to be truly offended were those writing the articles. Perhaps they had their professional caps on too tight and were worried of what implications the slightest lack of shock or disgust could have on their careers. Maybe they were surrounded by intelligent, opinionated, articulate female writers. I hope they have such excuses to offer, because otherwise it shows that they are not representative of their readership.

If the journalists I read yesterday in the Times and online from a few sources are really that offended, they have obviously never been to what we call ‘a pub’. Now, by a pub I don’t mean a London bar with mood lighting and chill-out music in which you may sup a delicious German weissbier whilst enjoying hummus and olives; a place in which you may see a Jamie Redknapp type with his fitted suits and modern outlook on life. I don’t mean a chain pub full of cockney ‘Man Yoo’ fans or toffs in rugby shirts and loafers. I mean a working man’s boozer, with drip trays and tankards; a place in which older men release darts and farts with equal gusto and accuracy and in which I feel no older than I did when I were knee high to a grasshopper, peering through smoke and man boobs to get a glimpse of the footy. In such an establishment you might see an Andy Gray type, with beer belly and bollocks flopped in ill-fitting clothes, merrily chewing the fat with his contemporaries.

In such a place one can take stock of the true attitudes of the older gentlemen in our society. The humour is crude but ultimately harmless. Where once it would be acceptable to show a racist attitude it now is not; the ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson types have been booted out of the vault along with their archaic, offensive slurs. I was lucky enough to interview Viv Anderson, the first black man to play for England. He told me of visiting a boozer near Old Trafford (when he was playing for Manchester United) called the Pomona Palace, in which he stuck out like a sore thumb, partly because of his race, partly because he asked for a drop of lime in his bitter. Twenty or so years on racism is all but dead in English social life and has even been conquered in football, which was commonly seen to be the last bastion of such disgusting prejudice.

What does remain is a slight tinge of tongue-in-cheek sexism, insofar as I might goad a female friend if she makes a well-informed comment on football match that’s on in the pub. She would not be offended, and might later poke fun at my lack of domestication. She’s there watching the game with me, a sight that would not be allowed in the old-school working men’s clubs. Times have moved on and women know much more about the game now than they used to, as seen by the excellent performance of Sian Massey at the weekend, but there is still a lingering spectre of sexism. Karren Brady, vice-chairman (/woman?! Got to be careful here!) of West Ham, admitted as much in the very column Gray and Keys referred to during their less than candid conversation: “I know more about the offside law than perhaps a girl should,” she wrote.

Jokes aside, sexism is dead for my generation, as it is for the majority of the older English generation. Gray and Keys are merely fossils of a bygone age in English social life from which most men have evolved. However, for the press be so surprised and shocked by two middle-aged men doubting the decision of a female football official is either naïve or simply false. Maybe they need to leave their politically-correct bubble and sample the real world. Pork scratching?

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  • Mystical Mike

    Great article, some true words spoken.

    Soon presensters will b sacked for for having banter

    Jamie redknapp must b licking his lips, this is his chance to be the main man

  • Mike Somerville

    Just want to echo what has been already said- great article and wel written 🙂

    Interesting point as well 😀

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