Monday, 24 January 2011


There is nothing more annoying and frustrating for me than discrimination. Whether it comes in the form of ageism, racism or sexism, prejudice and discrimination should have absolutely no place in a modern-day society. So you can imagine my anger upon reading about the current furore encircling Sky presenter/commentary duo Richard Keys and Andy Gray.

I wrote an article a few years ago on women in football, When will men realise that women have a rightful place in football?. The article was met with a tirade of appallingly sexist comments that ranged from ‘get back to the kitchen’ to ‘women aren’t welcome at football matches’. The comments were nothing new to me; I’ve heard every single tired cliché in the book, often thrown at me by old-headed, old-fashioned males with a serious lack of respect. I’ve also learned to accept the comments and the fact that they come with the territory- but stem from the minority.

Being involved in the world of football that tends to be predominantly male-orientated does unfortunately mean that, if you have long brown hair, wear make-up and a skirt, you often stick out. I wonder how many times I, or any other woman who enjoys football and goes regularly to games, have heard the words ‘But you’re female and you know your stuff. You actually know about football. How can this happen?’ Yawn. When you next go to a football game, have a look around you at how many women are in attendance. You may be surprised that it’s more than you think. You may also be surprised that we do get offside calls right every once in a while.

The conversation that was recorded between Keys and Gray, regarding the presence of lineswoman Sian Massey at the Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Liverpool game, was in private. It was their opinion. It wasn’t broadcast live on air (thankfully for them), but that isn’t the point. The point is that they harbour those prehistoric views towards both her and Karren Brady and that, bearing those views in mind, they are both representing the media giant Sky and insulting their fellow female colleagues.

Keys retorted before kick-off: “The game’s gone mad,” and that “somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.” Unbeknown to the Coventry-based official, Massey duly responded by getting the offside call spot on during the build-up to Fernando Torres’ first goal for Liverpool. I had a feeling that her presence would cause controversy, I just didn’t expect that the controversy would come from two men who are Sky’s flagship duo for their multi-million pound football coverage.

Many people don’t know the offside rule. I’ve heard grown men debate it and get many calls wrong at matches. Gender should be entirely irrelevant; Massey should be judged on the job she does and nothing else. It is unfortunate that Wolves fans will have, sadly and inevitably, given her grief and perhaps shouted the same vile comments towards her after the call she made against their team. But the point is, she got the call right. She did her job well. I’ve seen utter incompetence from referee officials during the course of this season, the likes of who could do with watching Massey’s performance as a positive example of how to run the line.

As it stands, Keys and Gray’s future at Sky remains uncertain. The pair have been suspended from covering the Bolton Wanderers vs. Chelsea game this evening and Barney Francis, Sky Sports MD, has issued an apology on their behalf. My betting is that this ‘suspension’ will sadly be a mere slap on the wrists, an act from Sky who must be seen to be acting in response to criticism from both genders alike. People don’t need to own a high horse when it comes to discrimination- it has no place in the 21st Century.

Unfortunately, there is a history of sexism throughout football. During a spell as Luton manager, Mike Newell launched a scathing attack on assistant referee Amy Rayner saying: "She shouldn't be here. I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist. This is not park football, so what are women doing here?" Even tonight, talkSPORT hosted a phone-in on the sexism debate, despite their website’s slogan reading ‘for men who like to talk sport’. Freedom of speech is one thing, but harbouring such a bigoted opinion in what is such a multi-cultural and ethical sport nowadays is quite another. It seems women are only welcome when semi-sexualised in front of a camera reading an autocue.

I can only speak for myself, but I’ve had to earn respect with the opposite sex when it comes to proving that I know the beautiful game. I have had a season-ticket for my team for many years and have attended with the same crowd of lads who happily treat me as ‘one of the boys’. That’s the way it should be, nothing more and nothing less. I’m still learning to grow a thick skin and laughing in the face of narrow-minded gender jibes. To be fair, the vast majority of men welcome and admire the fact that women have a place in football. But there will sadly always be a minority who believe it should remain a working-class men’s game and that women are not welcome. I think I’ve despondently accepted that fact to a certain extent, despite how hard I’ve worked to get to where I am in both my career and to earn some sense of equality in what is often deemed as a man’s world.

I’ll end with a quote from an interview that I conducted with BBC sports presenter Gabby Logan back in 2008. When asked for advice to give to females who are looking at breaking into the industry Logan mused: “Never let a man use your gender as an excuse. Always produce the very best you possibly can because nobody can argue with that. If their best argument is that you’re a woman, then they’re the ones that look really stupid.”

Massey produced the best anyone- male or female- could on Saturday. Keys and Gray have been made to look very stupid indeed.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2011 was to adamantly write even more than I already do. I have to admit, I was pretty horrified when I checked my blog, a blog that I once spent hours and hours adorning with opinion and interviews, to see that my last update was August. August! It’s just not acceptable from a woman who used to get silly little butterflies on clicking the send button on my content.

As is the case with the game of football that we all know and love, so much has happened since my last contribution, things that could and would only happen in our beautiful game. England tried- and failed- in their bid to be the hosts of the 2018 World Cup. I have to admit, it was quite gut-wrenching watched Sepp Blatter open the envelope to smugly reveal the name of Russia instead of our own Three Lions. Wills looked embarrassed, Becks looked mortified...yet Roman Abramovich looked understandably thrilled. Perhaps he needs to stop spending money on bribing FIFA delegates and concentrate on introducing fresh blood to his tired Chelsea squad (allegedly folks).

Liverpool have ceased to exist as a big club and, as a result, have roped in the services of a certain Kenny Dalglish in a desperate attempt to salvage the wreckage from a miserable season. The blame should lie more with the players than scapegoat Roy Hodgson, with Fernando Torres epically contradicting the description of his playing position and Steven Gerrard’s inconsistency failing to carry the team through as it once did.

Managers have become fickle folly more than ever. Chris Hughton was unceremoniously fired by Mike Ashley, who claims to be a Newcastle United fan yet does nothing but upset his fans and spin the managerial merry-go-round quicker than Ashley Cole puts it about. Sam Allardyce was axed from the Ewood Park chicken farm, with Diego ‘hand of God and other controversies‘ Maradona rumoured to be lined up to replace him. At one point recently, the rumour mill had its pick of four different managers to put up for the chop after an evening of dismal results left Hodgson, Carlo Ancelotti, Avram Grant and Gerard Houllier all poised to collect their P45s. Even if it is the minority at football clubs, fans have become increasingly impatient when teams clock up erratic results. Gone are the days of ‘let’s give him a chance’, the pressure and expectancy to succeed is greater than ever. Recent photographs of signs reading ‘Abramovich out’ illustrates how naive and pathetic the minority really can be.

‘Squeaky clean’ Theo Walcott has spoken out, admitting that he attempted to cheat his way into winning a penalty during his side’s F.A. Cup third round game against Leeds United. “I had a laugh about it” and “it’s just football” are not defensive statements when you admit attempting to bring the game into disrepute. If you fancy continuing with those antics, follow Tom Daley’s trail instead of lowering the tone even more than Dimitar Berbatov did against Liverpool Theo. Cheating has no place in football, yet Walcott’s quotes were intriguing as he also disclosed that "I have heard some players say 'if there is a slight touch go down.’” That must be the philosophy that the likes of Didier Drogba follow in order to wrap another champions medal around their neck. Some fans may perversely enjoy it, I for one think it spoils the game and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

David Beckham has been courting more press of late. Firstly due to his involvement in the failed World Cup bid (to which I think he did an incredible and touching job). Next up was Becks collecting a lifetime achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality of the year awards, another tear-fest. Now he’s taken residence at Spurs Lodge, Tottenham’s training ground, to boost his fitness and perhaps make a cameo in Harry Redknapp’s season. I have to admit, I am a huge fan of Beckham. He is the perfect role model and inspiration for fans and young children alike. He’s a great ambassador for the game and I am quite proud that he’s English. Before you ask, no I don’t fancy him. I simply admire his career and the contribution and effect he has had on football as a whole. I don’t think he has what it takes to manage, but it would be interesting to see if he would consider and be capable of it.

Much has been made recently of Ryan Babel’s Twitter picture ‘scandal’. I personally think that it’s ridiculous; Twitter is very much about having banter and the majority of it is very light-hearted. The likes of Robbie Savage and Rio Ferdinand all engage in harmless banter and I think that it’s a good medium for people to interact with the sportsmen on. Where is the justice when Babel is punished for a gut reaction after a painful Cup defeat to Manchester United, yet Walcott’s cheating admission is barely chastised. There seems to be a huge lack of consistency within the F.A. and their decisions. I’ve no doubt this may scare footballers off signing up to the social networking site, which is a shame really. Who will my boyfriend be able to give a substantial amount of grief too then?

I won’t/can’t say much about City apart from I obviously delighted at the current league position and the team’s form over Christmas. I’m really looking forward to seeing the new signing, Edin Dzeko in action too. The title race is already incredibly exciting this season, with the form of both Liverpool and Chelsea opening the doors for a selection of top four ‘fringe teams’ to mount a challenge. It pains me to admit that Manchester United do look to be in pole position right now. But there’s still plenty of time for the momentum to swing and the order to shift. If Arsenal are to be considered they must learn that consistency is the key. Arsene Wenger can’t keep making significant changes to the starting line-up between games and expect to grind out results week in week out. Another factor that may play a part is the Champions League- can the teams at the top maintain both their league and European challenges or will something have to give? Either way it all adds to the suspense.

I think I’m getting back in my writing habit. It’s bloggy marvellous!