It is not really a surprise that two of Britain’s most Neanderthal-looking men are misogynists. They are, and as the fallout from what is sure to become known as ‘Offside-gate’* continues it probably turns out that a lot of people think they should lose their jobs as a result. I think I probably agree but there are 605 comments (and counting) at the bottom of The Guardian’s article arguing the toss on that issue and I doubt whether I have anything new to add. Except, what is remarkable about the exchange (you can listen to it here, or read it here) is that they are pretty clearly not joking, they’re certainly not laughing. They seem to regard the appointment of a fully trained official to do her job a genuine affront to the integrity of the game. This morning, Kenny Dalglish, brilliantly rebuked their attempts to hoist him into their gentlemen’s club (‘Kenny’s going to go potty’) by asking the Sky Sports reporter present at Liverpool’s press conference if he objected to the presence of female journalists. The reporter’s response is not known.
Instead, let’s talk about the Premier League. They, as The Guardian’s new ‘Secret Footballer’ column revealed on Saturday, insist on the inclusion of the following clause in all player contracts:
[The Player agrees that he will not] knowingly do, write or say anything or omit to do anything which is likely to bring the club or the game of football into disrepute, cause the player or the club to be in breach of the rules or cause damage to the club or its officers or employees or any match official. Wherever circumstances permit the player shall give to the club reasonable notice of his intention to make any contributions to the public media in order to allow representations to be made to him on behalf of the Club if it so desires.
I guess that, since its there on the contract itself, this clause is fair enough. The whole footballer-as-role-model business has been discussed and debunked well and in great length elsewhere, but it is not unreasonable for the League to try and promote the idea, and perhaps encourage players to act as such.
This clause was used as justification for the League meting out a £10,000 fine to Ryan Babel for posting the above photo of Howard Webb (MBE) on his Twitter feed in the aftermath of ‘England’s best referee’s performance in Manchester United’s recent FA Cup victory over Babel’s Liverpool. Babel just picked up his 195,643rd follower (the Big Man is on his tail now too), which is quite a lot but I imagine that, with around 10,000,000 subscribers the audience of Sky’s coverage of Saturday’s Wolves Liverpool match was greater.
Keys and Gray were off-air, but undoubtedly their comments were more offensive and brought greater disrepute to football than did Babel’s. In many ways, such is the intimacy of the Premier League’s relationship with the Murdoch empire, that Keys and Gray are the League’s public faces (yuck) and spokesmen. Essentially, then, their job (as Gray recently stated) is to make the League look good. Clearly, here, they have failed.
In that case, why can’t they get fined by the League? Ryan Babel works for Liverpool, but got fined by the League. If players have a clause in their contracts protecting the game’s public honour, broadcasters must as well; if they are prepared to defend a Member of the Order of the British Empire from potentially harmful ‘tweets’ the League has got to give Sian Massey a hand too.
They probably won’t.
* On the ‘-gate’ suffix, check this out.