herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

John Giles: No sympathy for Gray

FOR a man who has spent a good deal of the past decade berating male referees, I find Andy Gray's attitude to female officials puzzling.

If the men are so bad, why not give the ladies a go. But there's a lot more than meets the eye to Gray's spectacular fall from grace than a man with an oafish view of the world getting his comeuppance.

He's been a long time in television and I'm sure he's made enemies along the way. It seems to me that Sky didn't hesitate to cut him loose when the chance arose.

In fact, Sky added fuel to the fire with their extra footage. Perhaps someone sitting in a room somewhere decided that the time had come for a change.

I know there are other matters at issue here and that Gray is involved in a legal battle with the News of the World over phone-tapping allegations, but that's outside the football arena.

Those are shark-infested waters best left to the lawyers and I'm sure Gray is now very preoccupied indeed with a simple enough question.

Who leaked the footage and why? That's one aspect of this saga and I'll be honest, I won't shed any tears over Gray's sacking.

Apart from the fact that I didn't really rate him as a pundit, I've always felt that Sky's coverage of football is destructive and, ironically, the best example of that is Gray's constant savaging of referees.

His opinions seemed to reflect very closely the attitude of managers to match officials and he was always quick to let us know how close a relationship he enjoyed with men like Sam Allardyce.

Between the managers and Gray, referees have been taking an awful pounding and if any good is to come of all of this, maybe we'll now see a proper debate about how we can make life easier for those brave enough to do the job nobody wants to do.

Sian Massey is very well qualified to do that job. She has officiated at the highest level in the women's game and in many lower league games.

Unless I'm missing something, she should be as good or as bad as any other match official. Women's football is spreading across the globe like wildfire and as we've seen in the Olympics and the World Cup, they play with a high level of skill and professionalism.

Massey is simply a sign of the times and I cannot see any reason why women shouldn't be just as able when it comes to upholding the rules of the game. She is now the unwitting participant in a media circus caused by the stupid and unprofessional behaviour of the highest paid pundit in Britain and his linkman, Richard Keys.

As a result of some crass comments and the kind of sentiments which indicate a pattern of disrespect towards the fairer sex, Gray has lost his job and I can't argue with that.

Referees are easy targets and for men who are happy to belittle women, female match assistants the easiest of all.

But the fact that he made his comments about Massey before the game meant that he didn't have a leg to stand on. He wasn't even prepared to give her a chance.

Over the years, Gray has wasted no opportunity to hit the lowest common denominator as he wielded camera technology like a weapon against officials.

He scored because we all hate bad refereeing. We all hate when our team is denied by a poor decision and, worst of all, we all hate it when an official uses a whistle to become more important than the players.

MISTAKES

All of these things happen and on a regular basis. Gray, with his battery of cameras, angles and computer software can freeze time, a luxury not afforded to the referee, and highlight mistakes with the stroke of an electronic pointer.

Sky has a proprietary attitude to the Premier League and I'm convinced that it is leading the push towards the use of technology for its own selfish reasons.

In short, to give it an even greater influence on the game. How ironic that the same medium Sky use to maintain a grip on football should be turned against Gray.

We can all watch a video replay of his words and actions as often as we like on YouTube. In time, Sky will promote one of its young faces to take over Gray's role and I'm sure there's a queue waiting in the wings.

I've no doubt that whoever is chosen will be as good as Gray was.

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