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Page last updated at 17:47 GMT, Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Scottish woman referee wants no 'Gray row' backlash

Andy Gray and Morag Pirie
Gray has been sacked by Sky for comments described by Pirie as disrespectful

Scottish referee Morag Pirie hopes negative comments that led to the sacking of Andy Gray will not prevent women from signing up as officials.

Glaswegian Gray had his contract terminated by Sky Sports after comments made off-air about female assistant referee Sian Massey.

"It is hard enough to encourage women to take up refereeing as it is," Pirie told BBC Scotland.

"They don't realise that, without a referee, you have no game."

Gray - the 55-year-old former Dundee United, Aston Villa, Wolves, Everton, West Brom, Rangers and Scotland striker - had already been disciplined for what were deemed sexist comments about Massey before Saturday's match between Wolves and Liverpool.

He and colleague Richard Keys, who had agreed that women did not understand the offside rule, were stood down for Monday's match between Bolton and Chelsea.

And, on Tuesday, Sky said they terminated Gray's contract "in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour".

I would not have liked to have a woman refereeing or being a linesman when I played

Former Hibernian assistant manager Brian Rice

Speaking ahead of those latest developments, Pirie said: "Negative comments help nobody.

"They said the comments before the game even started.

"They hadn't even seen her perform. It's disrespectful to her as a person."

Pirie has previous experience of criticism, with Peter Hetherston, then manager of Scottish Third Division side Albion Rovers, saying in 2003: "She should be at home making the tea or the dinner for her man.

"This is a professional man's game. I believe that she shouldn't be here."

Pirie, who referees in the Highland League and is an assistant in the Scottish Football League Third Division, believes those attitudes are now in the minority.

"When I'm refereeing, 99% of the players accept you as a referee rather than thinking 'aw there's a lassie running the line there'," she said.

However, she thought that comments made on BBC Scotland's Sportsound by former Hibernian assistant manager Brian Rice were also "disrespectful to women's football".

Rice had suggested that women officials should stick to women's football.

"I don't like it, I must admit," he said. "I would not have liked to have a woman refereeing or being a linesman when I played.

"I think the scrutiny is always on the officials these days and I think it is just drawing attention because she is a woman if she makes a mistake.

"To be fair to the lady, it was a great call she made on Saturday. But I think if she had got that wrong, she has opened herself up for a lot of criticism.

"I think they obviously know the rules. They will know them better than us. How many people actually know the offside rule?

"I think it is the pressure they put themselves under. They are as fit as any guy can be and can run as quick as any male referee, but putting themselves in the spotlight like that might affect them."

Massey, meanwhile, has been withdrawn from her duties as an assistant referee for Tuesday's League Two game between Crewe Alexandra and Bradford City.

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see also
Sky sacks 'offensive' pundit Gray
25 Jan 11 |  Football

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