Soccer pundit Andy Gray was fired from Sky Sports today as the football sexism row deepened.
The pundit, already in trouble over sexist remarks about assistant referee Sian Massey, was sacked “in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour” following an “off-air incident that took place in December 2010”, the broadcaster said.
Meanwhile Massey withdrew from running the line at tonight’s npower League Two match between Crewe and Bradford.
Today, reporter Andy Burton joined Gray and fellow Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys in being disciplined for comments about Massey.
Burton was stood down from tomorrow night’s Carling Cup semi-final second leg match between Birmingham and West Ham after footage emerged of him referring to Massey as a “bit of a looker”.
Keys and Gray were dropped from last night’s line-up for the match between Bolton and Chelsea after their off-air remarks were leaked.
The pair agreed that female officials “don’t know the offside rule” and predicted Massey would drop a clanger during Wolves’ home game against Liverpool on Saturday. She ended up correctly calling a crucial borderline decision.
New footage was shown on Sky News today of Gray asking a female colleague to help him tuck his microphone into his trousers.
Former Everton striker Gray, who reportedly earns more than £1(€1.1m) a year, is shown saying to colleague Charlotte Jackson: "Charlotte, can you tuck this down here for me?"
Jackson ignores the remark.
Sky Sports said in a statement that it had terminated its contract with Gray.
The statement said: “The decision, which is effective immediately, was made in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour.
“The new evidence, relating to an off-air incident that took place in December 2010, came to light after Andy Gray had already been subjected to disciplinary action for his comments of 22 January 2011.”
Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, said in the statement: “Andy Gray’s contract has been terminated for unacceptable behaviour. After issuing a warning yesterday, we have no hesitation in taking this action after becoming aware of new information today.”
Burton became drawn into the controversy yesterday after Sky News broadcast footage of a touchline conversation between him and Gray before Saturday’s game.
Burton said “apparently, a female lino today, bit of a looker”, with Gray responding: “A female linesman?”
Burton continued: “He (a Sky Sports crew member) says she (Massey) is all right. Now I don’t know if I should trust his judgment on that?”
Gray then said: “No, I wouldn’t. I definitely wouldn’t ... I can see her from here.”
Then he swore and added: “What do women know about the offside rule?”
Keys phoned Massey yesterday to apologise. She is said to have accepted the apology and to be keen to move on from the matter.
Gray did not call Massey to say sorry but Sky Sports insisted that Keys had done so on behalf of them both.
A spokesman said: “It wasn’t a case of Andy not apologising. It doesn’t really make sense for both of them to call.”
It was not known this afternoon whether Burton would make a similar apology and nor was it known whether Keys had apologised to West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, whom he also disparaged for suggesting sexism was rife in the game.
Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis said earlier that Keys and Gray had been disciplined and dropped from coverage of last night’s match.
He said yesterday: “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.
“They are inexcusable from anyone at Sky, regardless of their role or seniority.
“We have dealt with this matter by taking immediate disciplinary action. As with any employee, it would not be right to go into detail on those proceedings. However, they have been clearly warned about their behaviour and reminded of their responsibilities.”
Gray and Keys thought their conversation was private but it was obtained by the Mail on Sunday.
The duo agreed that someone should get pitchside to explain the offside rule to Massey.
Keys said: “I can guarantee you there’ll be a big one today. (Liverpool manager) Kenny (Dalglish) will go potty.”
Then, referring to Brady’s piece about sexism in a Saturday newspaper, Keys added: “See charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love.”
Brady said Keys and Gray’s comments about Massey “make my blood boil” and she was joined by a number of anti-discrimination groups in condemning the pair’s remarks.