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Andy again

As my wife and friends will tell you, I had my fill of Andy Gray years ago. When he appeared as a football pundit not long after retiring as a player, he was new, young, fresh and he had an original viewpoint to bring to the game. None of that is true any more; he ran out of things to say about ten years ago and since then his observations have been mainly critical and mainly focused on those decisions of officials which he and the dodgy Sky technology deem to be wrong. I’ve also had enough also of Richard Keys, Sky’s main football host, a smarmy twerp who has always seemed to me to be overcome by his self-perceived cleverness.

So, when I woke this morning to hear that the pair had been hit by the curse of the live microphone, my first reaction was to laugh and hope that it would lead to their imminent early retirement. Then I paused, when I realised that I’m not entirely on the other side of the argument. I don’t accept at all the assertion that, ‘female officials don’t know the offside rule.’ Confusion over that law of the game is widespread. It exists among refs, linesmen, managers, players and pundits. As it happened, I watched the Liverpool game, and when Sian Massey, the female assistant ref, allowed the controversial goal, I said aloud, before a witness, ‘God, she’d better have got this one right.’ She had, tv indicated, spot on, an instant judgement call which  would have probably gone the other way five times out of ten had the flag been in male hands. However, I’m not sure she should have been put in that position.

These days, women’s football is a global game, on in which Britain is lagging behind. It needs to be developed here across the board and that means that it needs its own corps of elite officials. They’re not going to be improved if the brightest and the best are taken and made to run the line at a male Premier League game in front of a baying, largely sexist crowd. If inter-gender officialdom grows, it will not be long before there are terracing chants reserved for women refs and lines-people, and they will not be attractive. Then there’s a practical consideration; football grounds have three changing rooms, home team, away team and officials, and they will all have urinals. How are they going to handle that one? Mind you, there is a strong case for: if there were more women officials, it would cut down on footballers’ use of industrial language. I do not believe that on Saturday a single player ran up to Ms Massey and screamed in her face, ‘You are ******* blind! That was out ******* throw-in!’ Mind you, I did see Glen Johnson gesturing towards her, making the shape of a ball that he thought he had won, as he would have done in a European game, where the person with the flag spoke no English.

On balance, though, to each their own is how I see it, not because I want to retain male  bastions, but because I don’t like to see a woman with her back to thousands of screaming, abusive, foul-mouthed guys. Nothing to do with the petty, childish, out-dated Gray and Keys. I’m sure that Ms Massey could see them off with a few words, as Kelly Dalglish Cates has done already. And as has Karen Brady, but she’s another story.

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