The days when football was seen as a macho sport for men are over. People have different reasons why they enjoy watching a football match. I, for example, cannot abide matches between non-entities. I like to know at least fifty percent of each team’s players, just so I can gesticulate wildly at the screen and inject the right note of indignance into my voice if one of them throws away a golden opportunity for a goal. I’ll be the first to admit that I watch football, not to hear the incisive, technical or tactical successes or mistakes that the coach may or may not have made whilst selecting his team, but merely for the spectacle, drama and possible controversy of the game. So excuse me if I do not understand why a goal has been disqualified because it was shot from an offside position. I also, possibly, will not be offended if this lack of understanding happens within the company of a group of guys who scoff that I do not get the offside rule because I am a woman – believe it or not, the view that women simply do not ‘get’ sports is arguably one shared by many men.
This week the sexism row has reignited over the high-profile ousting of Sky Sports commentators Andy Gray and Richard Keys as a result of disparaging off-air comments about a female linesman who ‘needs the offside rule explained to her.’ These men have fronted Sky Sports in a career spanning two decades, and while I may not feel any particular affinity towards them, I am sure that many a match has been immensely enjoyed because of their infectious enthusiasm as commentators. Of course it was an unsavoury comment to make of a female in a professional capacity as a linesman in a football game; it was positively disastrous that it was caught on air.
But what irks me is the smack of hypocrisy and stink to high heaven over this high-profile sacking. I am happy that attitudes in society towards women, the disabled and minority ethnic groups have seen a colossal change in recent times. But I’m afraid, this has brought on a walking-on-eggshell society for those in the public eye. There is no place in society for anyone to be discriminated against because of their gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality etc. So while Sky may be seeking to be an exemplary channel in how it deals with its employees’ treatment of women, the wider issue remains. This sexism row has brought out indignant feminists in their droves, but the real perpetrators of this issue are not necessarily the Andy Grays and Richard Keyses of this world who have been vilified in the media for being dinosaurs exhibiting behaviour that was long believed to have disappeared. They are those we see everyday: at the office, at home and everywhere in between. That these two are now the current faces of sexism is only a tiny scratch at the surface.
So let’s not kid ourselves in this shamble of a politically correct society. The truth is sexism, racism, gender inequalities and what have you, are endemic in our society, and if you believe they’re not – or that they exist only in football - then you have another think coming.