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Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Andy Gray sacked by Sky for offensive behaviour

Andy Gray
Gray has been a key part of Sky's football coverage

Sky has sacked football presenter Andy Gray after further allegations of his sexist behaviour came to light.

The pundit had already been disciplined for sexist comments made about female referee Sian Massey before Saturday's match between Wolves and Liverpool.

The 55-year-old and colleague Richard Keys had been stood down for Monday's match between Bolton and Chelsea.

Sky Sports said it had sacked Gray "in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour".

Sky's statement continued: "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."

The new footage, which was recorded in December but only came to light on Monday night, appears to show Gray making a suggestive comment towards colleague Charlotte Jackson, who does not openly react, and he and Keys then burst out laughing.

Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis said on Tuesday: "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."

Gray has instructed law firm Schillings to represent him over the termination of his contract, while Massey was withdrawn from her duties as an assistant referee for Tuesday's League Two game between Crewe and Bradford.

Female official Sian Massey
Massey has found herself at the centre of a media storm

The furore began on Saturday when Keys and Gray, believing their microphones were switched off, were recorded before the game at Molineux saying that Massey and other female assistant referees "did not know the offside rule".

Keys added: "Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her."

The pair were subsequently disciplined.

Keys has since telephoned Massey, who has accepted the presenter's apology, though later on Tuesday new footage surfaced on the internet of the Sky presenter where he appeared to make lewd comments off-air to pundit Jamie Redknapp.

On Monday, additional video footage emerged of Gray, a former Scotland international and striker with Aston Villa, Wolves and Everton, talking off-air with Sky Sports' pitchside reporter Andy Burton about Massey.

Sky News reported that the pair discussed Massey's appearance, with Burton referring to Massey as "a bit of a looker" while Gray asks: "What do women know about the offside rule?"

Earlier on Tuesday it was announced that Burton was "spoken to and warned" about his remarks and he would not be involved in Sky's coverage of Wednesday's Carling Cup tie between Birmingham and West Ham.

Gray and Keys have been the face of Sky Sports' football coverage since the satellite broadcaster started showing English top-flight matches in 1992.

Soon after Gray was sacked, the Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO) withdrew Massey from Tuesday's game at Crewe.

PGMO general manager Mike Riley said: "PGMO and Sian believe that with any football match the focus should not be on the officials but on the players and the game itself. That is only fair to those connected with the clubs and their supporters.

"Sian is an excellent professional who has unwittingly found herself in the middle of a story that has nothing to do with her competence as a match official.

"Sian only wants to be notable for her performance as an assistant referee and is keen for things to get back to normal so she can return to officiating as soon as possible."

Before it was announced that Gray had been sacked, Arthur Smith, general secretary of the Referees' Association, told BBC Sport's Dan Roan that Massey was hurt by the comments.

"They were utterly inappropriate and totally sexist," said Arthur, who represents 11,000 referees in the UK. "It has no part of the game. I don't consider it harmless banter at all.

"I have spoken to Sian. She's fine. She's got that game on merit, she's worked really hard, and it does hurt you. You overcome it, you move forward."

But Gray's former Everton team-mate Peter Reid linked the ex-Sky pundit's dismissal to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

Gray has gone to the High Court in an attempt to force private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to reveal which News of the World journalists asked him to hack into his phone.

Refs' chief slams Sky presenters over sexism row

The News of the World is a subsidiary of News Corporation, which owns a large stake in BSkyB and is seeking to purchase the whole company.

"The comments weren't great but I think it was a joke and I have got a feeling they might be linked in some way," Reid told BBC Radio 4's PM.

Former Manchester United boss Ron Atkinson, who resigned from his position as ITV co-commentator in April 2004 after making an off-air racist comment, also suggested Gray may have been unfortunate to lose his job.

Atkinson told BBC Radio WM: "I don't know the full story but on the evidence of what I've just heard and what I've read I think a suspension would have been the correct decision."

Betting exchange Betfair, which employs Gray as a football columnist, said it is "reviewing the situation"

Electronic Arts, which produces football video games, refused to comment on whether Gray would be used as a commentator in the future.

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see also
Sky discipline pair over comments
24 Jan 11 |  Football
Ref wants no 'Gray row' backlash
25 Jan 11 |  Scottish League
Is sexism still rife in football?
24 Jan 11 |  Football
Wolves 0-3 Liverpool
22 Jan 11 |  Premier League

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