Sky Sports soccer announcer Andy Gray, who made sexist remarks about a female assistant referee at the weekend, has been fired by the U.K. broadcaster.
“Andy Gray’s contract has been terminated for unacceptable behavior,” Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, said in a statement. “After issuing a warning yesterday, we have no hesitation in taking this action after becoming aware of new information today.”
The new evidence relates to an off-air incident in December, Sky said, and came to light after Gray had already been disciplined for his disparaging weekend comments on match official Sian Massey.
While Sky didn’t specify the latest evidence of what it called “offensive” conduct, the Guardian newspaper linked Gray’s departure to comments he made last month to colleague Charlotte Jackson during preparations for a program. Footage of the incident has appeared on the Internet.
Gray has been a regular on Sky’s soccer coverage since the early 1990s, and the Daily Mail said he was paid 1.7 million pounds ($2.7 million) a year. The 55-year-old and colleague Richard Keys made remarks about Massey in a television studio before a game between Wolves and Liverpool last weekend in England’s Premier League. Massey, one of the few females to have officiated at top level in England, was working her second top-division match as an assistant referee.
The two announcers were heard agreeing that women “don’t know the offside rule,” and at one point Keys said “the game’s gone mad.”
Their conversation, which didn’t go out on the air, was leaked to the Mail on Sunday newspaper. Yesterday, Sky News broadcast separate off-air remarks made by Gray about Massey, including about her appearance and repeating an assertion that women don’t understand the offside rule. The revelations have led to a storm of controversy in the U.K. media over sexism in soccer.
Sky didn’t comment on Keys’s future. In a statement yesterday, Sky’s Francis said the remarks by Keys and Gray were “totally unacceptable.”
“Those views are inexcusable, entirely inconsistent with our ethos as a business and employer, and will rightly offend many of our customers, our people, and the wider public,” Francis said. “They are inexcusable from anyone at Sky, regardless of their role or seniority.”
Last night Gray and Keys were removed from Sky Sports’ broadcast of the Bolton-Chelsea game, where they were scheduled to commentate. Sky Sports reporter Andy Burton was stopped from working tomorrow’s League Cup semifinal game between Birmingham and West Ham after being involved in the exchange of remarks broadcast yesterday by Sky News.
Massey has been withdrawn from tonight’s League Two game between Crewe and Bradford, the Football League said on its website.
Professional Game Match Officials “and Sian believe that with any football match the focus should not be on the officials but on the players and the game itself,” Mike Riley, PGMO general manager, said in a statement. “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.”
Former Scotland international Gray played for clubs including Aston Villa, Wolves and Everton before going into broadcasting as a soccer analyst.
Sky Sports and Sky News are units of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. Gray sometimes provides commentary on Premier League games broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel in the U.S.