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No place for sexism in Scottish football

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Jim Spence | 09:59 UK time, Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Hailing from Dundee, once known as "City O the Kettle Bilers", on account of the high proportion of women toiling in the jute mills, while their unemployed husbands remained at home making the tea, it would be impossible to underestimate the contribution of feisty women to my own upbringing.

That's why I'm unimpressed by those who think a woman's place is anywhere except a football field.

It's almost unfathomable why anyone could think that women can hold high offices in medicine, law, politics and elsewhere, yet fail to understand the offside law.

It's tough enough for any referee or assistant referee regardless of gender, to rise to the top in the game.

Even those who have been fast-tracked will have had to officiate in the amateur game, where knowledge of the laws of football often come secondary to the ability to plan a quick escape route, and to run the 100 metres in around eleven seconds in trainers to make a quick getaway.

There is no reason to suppose that such a testing ground is any easier for women refs than men.

So female referees like Sian Massey and Scotland's Morag Pirie, didn't get where they are because they are "lookers", to use the term employed by one unfortunate reporter.

They got where are today by sheer bloody hard graft and ability, taking on the chin the criticism and stick that came their way.

To suggest otherwise is an insult to those women who referee or pull the boots on to play all over the country.

I know people involved in the women's game and know of amateur players training five nights a week and of women travelling the length and breadth of the country for training and matches.

Whether they play, whistle, or run the line they deserve the same respect as men.

But more importantly they are entitled to the same opportunities.

Football is the people's game after all, it's not just for half of the population.


  • Comment number 1.

    What can you say Jim there is no place for sexism in Scottish football but if you are going to argue that, 'Whether they play, whistle, or run the line they deserve the same respect as men', it raises the issue of whether they deserve the same lack of respect as well at times! Football is not an antiseptic sport after all.

    But is sexism as big an issue in Scottish football though compared to our historical baggage of sectarianism and racism?

  • Comment number 2.

    You're quite Jim, Sian Massey and Morag Pirie definitely didn't get where they are because they're "lookers". Joking aside, would it be so bad if we did have attractive women refereeing? On the one hand, it might prove to be distracting to the players; but on the other, can you really imagine the sort of scenes we see today - players from both teams crowding round the referee like petulant little children - happening if the referee was, to use a term one of my friends uses, a "grade A stunner"? Of course, the other possibility is they start being even worse, deciding that every decision is wrong because she's a girl and couldn't possibly know what she's on about...

    Women supposedly have better peripheral vision than men, which would be very helpful for a referee.

  • Comment number 3.

    The sooner soccer realises that this is 2011, and whether in banter or a serious opinion re the role of woman in soccer are made by so called experts is a irrelevance.The sport is still in the dark ages with this male dominated views and participants.

  • Comment number 4.

    well its just the natural way of things. why watch women play when you can watch the real thing. have you ever watched womens football. its awful. look at their world cup. not a goalkeeper among them. in sport women are second class

  • Comment number 5.

    Of course women are capable of officiating in men's football - I've seen a fair few and junior level, and they don't seem any better or worse than the men generally. I do think the players are also less inclined to give them a hard time, although I always try to adopt an equal opportunities attitude in this respect!

    What I would say though is that I'm against "fast tracking" in any shape or form. Some of the young refs I've seen have been totally hopeless, and just pull cards out constantly. I always wonder what a 20 yr old is doing refereeing - surely if they're interested in football they should be playing? I think having played at any adult level gives a referee a better idea of whats a dangerous or malicious tackle and whats just clumsy or accidental.

    So women refs? Fine. But rapidly promoting someone just because they're female (or young or any other arbitrary reason) is wrong.

  • Comment number 6.

    Think you're a bit behind the scheme Jim. this has nothing to do with football at all but with media sexism in general. Are you going to tell me you never made a joke about women in your life? You lie my friend if you say no. Lucky it wasn't caught on camera. If you read the learned comments of the FEMALE reporter for the SUN, she sensibly points out that there is a whole daytime mainstream TV show devoted to women taking the micky out of men. Don't see any of them getting the sack!

  • Comment number 7.

    Scotitalia, only men can be sexist, donchyaknow?

  • Comment number 8.

    You are correct James, there is no place for sexism, racism or sectarianism, not just in football but anywhere. But I don't recall anyone banning a sense of humour. If I took offence everytime my wife or one of her friends made a comment about my inability to multi task we would never speak, the entire cast of "loose women" would be sacked on a daily basis and almost every comedian on the circuits would be redundant. Neither Gray nor Keys made a specific personal comment about Sian Massey. They joked about a females ability to understand the offside rule...... Jesus I have been watching football for 30 odd years and I am still not sure I understand all of the connotations of the current rule.

  • Comment number 9.

    Absolutely agree that there is no place in modern society for old fashioned and out moded views. Remarks that were common place in the 1960 are no longer acceptable and the sooner the dinosaurs get that the better. However, I am equally passionate about fairness and in such matters the punishment should fit the crime and I worry about the hefty price people in the media have to pay for such indiscretions. Most of us have a disciplinary system which is uniformly applied ie informal and formal warnings bioth oral and written etc and summary dismissal for gross misconduct. I've heard a thousand stupid things said for which people have rightly been pulled up but hey Rupert has his own rules.

    As for women officials - no issues from me although I did like Rob04's opening comments about equal treatment including lack of respect. Should be some blog the first time a female official lies to Mr Lennon - wow

  • Comment number 10.

    Well said Jim.
    Those who argue that women should only officiate in the womens game and men should be restricted to the mens game should realise that female line judges have been working at Wimbledon during mens matches, and men watch the line during womens matches without any fuss. I can't see any difference with football. Welcome to planet Earth folks.

  • Comment number 11.

    There will never be equality, it is impossible. I see examples everyday of women who own business hiring more women than men then when a man hires more men that women, it is called sexism. Commentators circumcise refs and linesmen every singles match but if it is a woman on the receiving end, it is sexism. What next? If a player gets upset with a female official, will they be accused of sexism? There has a to be a separation

  • Comment number 12.

    I think Jim that I'm really more concerned (I have two young daughters after all) about the gender equality gap in the labour market where women are paid on average around 20% compared to men for equivalent jobs.

    That for me is simply a far bigger issue, a 'wrong' and more worthy of genuine media frenzy than these sideshow issues. Because effectively, here we are having a media stooshie about the comments from two middle-aged presenters.

    And these comments were just not the same league as those of Ron Atkinson who used a term I personally find expremely pejorative and objectionable.

    Most people I think couldn't care less whether its a women or man an electronic monitor or an alien species who makes decisions or line calls in sport, its all about making the best call as you see it (and hopefully the correct and fair one).

    And I find it slightly worrying that the same media who both portray women and men by resorting to stereotypes all the time who are now engaged in a frenzy about comments on female knowledge about the offiside rule.

    I've never had any views on Richard Keys but there is something queezy and hypocritical about seeing the guy openly labelled as 'sexist' by newpapers who use exactly the same language in their stories, columns and Page 3 pictures.

  • Comment number 13.

    Gender Equality - where mean are sacked for being sexist (Sky Sports) and women are paid for being sexist (Loose Women).

    That is 'media morality' for you!

  • Comment number 14.

    Gender Equality - where men are sacked for being sexist (Sky Sports) and women are paid for being sexist (Loose Women).

    That is 'media morality' for you!

  • Comment number 15.


    As a clarification to the post I should have said '20% less for equivalent jobs compared to men'.

  • Comment number 16.

    Brian Rice on Sportsound on Saturday: "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".

    Why Brian?

  • Comment number 17.

    Circumcise!? Commentators circumcise refs!? Circumcise!?

    Ha! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!


  • Comment number 18.

    Two slices of wholemeal toast (with bits in) and a banana today, by the way Jim.

  • Comment number 19.

    Another bit of a waste of time this blog, Jim.

    No one with half a brain could fail to condemn Gray & Keers and I'm personally glad they're gone.When people who are doing jobs that millions of others could do at least as well if not better begin to think they're untouchable it's time to call it a day.

    I do however believe that SKY operate double standards by employing SSN female presenters on the basis of looks, some of them can't even read the autocue and they obviously know nothing about sports.
    There are others who are knowledgable but they are now in a minority.

    Good luck to M/S Massey but let's hope that she doesn't come in for a load of criticism when she gets a decision wrong, as she will.

  • Comment number 20.

    Loose women analogy is poor. It is all about context and any time I have seen the programme it is humerous banter. I have never been offended. Let not forget to laugh at ourselves. Andy & Richard just got too big for their boots I am afraid.

  • Comment number 21.

    Athletic Bilbao have an explicit policy of only signing players of Basque origin.

  • Comment number 22.


    the abuse officials and players get just now in scotland is dispicable, andy grays and richard keys actions and words pale into insignificance when you have to sit through some of the bile that streams out of the stands, and thats directed at all clubs fans in the spl,
    god only knows what a female official will have to deal with in this country when mistakes are made.
    some of our football supporters are scum, but we just brush them and their abusiveness under the carpet. if the letter of the law was applied inside a football ground, you could easily arrest and charge at least thirty percent of a crowd for language or chants directed at any individual on the field of play, but the rule for most is that "they've paid their money, they're allowed to let off steam." we are backwards in this country.
    we put up with so much abuse when we go to football. jim spence, you must witness it every week.
    i would have to say that gray and keys situation was blown out of proportion due to their position and massive salaries. sky has grabbed the chance to cut them but i bet it was as much a money desicion and not just a moment to take a moral stance on sexism.

  • Comment number 23.

    I'd disagree with the posters who say it's been blown out of proportion. The clear inference of Gray and Keys' words was that they thought a woman should not be allowed to officiate a league game. That's not banter.

    Presumably they think there are enough tits in football already. At least while they're off the air there will be two fewer.

  • Comment number 24.


    I imagine I've been attending matches a lot longer than you as I think the level of abuse is actually much less than it was 30 or more years ago and part of this is down to all seater stadia and the increased number of ladies attending games.
    As I said earlier, good riddance to Gray & Keers.

    I note that you didn't go as far as suggesting female presenters covering football on Radio Scotland. I may be wrong but isn't the matchday gathering all male?
    Could this be double standards?

  • Comment number 25.


    Sorry I forgot, there is a lady that gets to report on games at Brechin and places like that, no disrespect meant to Brechin.
    Hardly equality is it ?

  • Comment number 26.

    morbhoy do I detect a note of cynicisim in your comments at 24 and 25 ?

    I think the events of the last week will prove to be a watershed in the matter of sexism in the game.

    Only one thing should count, Ability.

  • Comment number 27.

    Yeah, I agree. Let's get Sian Massey up here, get her to do three games a week, and sack three of our current hapless male officials.

  • Comment number 28.

    You could be right but it is a fact is it not?

    I agree that ability is the only thing that should count but wonder if any ladies have been given the opportunity as the pundits on Radio Scotland,with the one exception, are all ex-players.
    Sian Massey certainly couldn't be any worse than Euan Norris was on Wednesday night. The media need to let her get off her back and let her get on with her career.

  • Comment number 29.


    maybe you have, maybe you haven't been attending games longer than me, that's irrelevant, surely abuse is abuse, how can you say it isn't as bad as it was 30years ago, are you so use to the abuse that spills out of the stands that you don't realise it is abuse. are you that use it it that it seems normal banter.
    i have witnessed women and children leave football grounds because of idiots positioned roundabout them hurling their bile towards the field and for the all seater stadiums, fans still stand when they are supossed to be seated.
    i thought a supporter was at a football ground to support and cheer on their team, not there to ridicule and hurl all sorts of obscenities towards other supporters and players, and taking it further, look at the situation ex aberdeen manager mark mcghee faced when his own teams supporters actually spat at him as he walked back to the dressing room.
    morbhoy, do you really think abuse is decreasing.

  • Comment number 30.

    Not condoning anything said by Gray and Keys, but the topic was discussed on question time where Edwina Curry said that Gray was " fat slob" is that statement acceptable?

  • Comment number 31.


    I dread to think what the public response would be to Sian Massey or any other female official after they have received the twisted, poisonous bile screamed at them from a certain SPL manager, or are we to assume he wouldn't do it to a woman?

  • Comment number 32.


    I'm not sure his preference is anyone's business.


    Think you are correct in the amount of abuse at football grounds and the effect it has not just on women and children but really anyone who doesn't fancy catching the bile live and in their face.


    I too would be more concerned about differential labour market pay than the thoughts of two TV presenters. Storm in a media teacup. I'd love the media to get angry about women not being paid the same as men because that might make a real difference to people's lives. This media circus won't.

    Edwina Currie apparently called Gray a 'fat slob' on Question Time the other night. Now fat slobs the world over may take offence at this comparison but surely another offensive remark doesn't make a right in this case. Should Edwina now be banned from TV?

  • Comment number 33.

    606 is better than this

  • Comment number 34.

    You sound a bitter man and I don't know where you watch your football but what you describe is certainly not my experience.
    It does matter how long I've been watching football because I am in a position to comment on what it was like 30/40 years ago and, believe me, it was much worse at the games then.

    If you find football so distasteful why do you attend matches or do you?

  • Comment number 35.


    can you explain to me why i sound like a bitter man, i'm extremely curious, and i just wonder how you manage to get to that assumption.

    as for being able to comment on football over 30 years ago, i went to games all those years ago and still take in some games, not all games though, that give me somewhat of an opinion on it and in my opinion it is worse today, and thats from junior right through to internationals, every game i have been to has carried a certain level of abuse which i find unacceptable, is it wrong that i say this morbhoy?
    as for football being distasteful, your wrong, it's not the football thats distasteful, it's some of the supporters, wouldn't you agree.

  • Comment number 36.

    @33 Adios Amigo - mostly genuine debate here and up until 1pm today pretty wide ranging and constructive. Our loss is surely 606's gain but hey - we're happy, even if JS is up to his Oxters in transfer speculation at least until tomorrow.

  • Comment number 37.

    "Football is the people's game - it's not just for half of the population."

    For a moment I thought this was a blog about the probem with the Old Firm's attitude to the rest of the Scotland...

  • Comment number 38.

    #35 ally9

    I thought you sounded bitter from the comments you made and I couldn't understand why,if the level of abuse annoyed you so much, you would still attend matches.

    You're entitled to your opinion as I am to mine but I still don't think the level of abuse at games is as bad as it used to be which was the point.

    I do agree that there undesirables who attend games but that's a problem with the whole of society not just football.

  • Comment number 39.


    i'll give you that, i take your point about the level of abuse, maybe it can vary from game to game, and team to team, it really depends on your team winning week after week and where you are in a ground.

    as for the undesirables, there is a definate problem with society, but the minute they walk through a turnstile it becomes a football problem, the financial state of the game and clubs desperation to find money means that these undesirables are given access to games when they really shouldn't be anywhere near a ground.
    i want to be able to take family to football and enjoy the spectacle but clubs just don't do enough to make it a safe enough environment.

  • Comment number 40.

    Post No6.
    Damn good point about Loose Women. But also, in day to day I hear "men can't multi-task" and "oh, it's just man-flu" both of which are perfectly acceptable but are EXACTLY the same as Andy Gray & Richard Keys comments. Were they're comments wrong? Of course they were but are the above any better? No.
    A comedian once stated that the only people you can take the mick out of is white, straight men. It's true, maybe just because they're the only ones who can seperate actual sexism/racism from a bit of banter between colleagues.

    I'm sure if 1000 women were asked about the offside rule, a majority wouldn't have a clue.
    Also, if I or another 999 men were asked about fashion/shoes etc, the majority would be just as clueless.

    Thus, Gray & Keys comments AND the standard comments about men, whilst not being 100% correct statements, it could probably be argued that they are correct as GENERALisms.

  • Comment number 41.

    WATSORB (#40) opined:

    "I'm sure if 1000 women were asked about the offside rule, a majority wouldn't have a clue. "

    And I am equally sure that if you asked 1000 men the self-same question, a majority would either not know or would be mistaken - esp. re interference.

    The most unacceptable aspect of the Gray-Keys exchange was NOT that they suggested that women (in general) didn't understand the offside rule, but that they thought a fully-accredited official - a qualified referee - would not understand the offside rule, regardless of the gender of that individual.

    I am unsurprised that a laddish environment existed at Sky Sports' football coverage, but I was also deafened by the silence of all of their colleagues within earshot (actual or via the pair's microphones) reprimanding them for their comments (just as when Ron Atkinson's ill-considered words were broadcast, but no one told him to watch his mouth).

  • Comment number 42.

    But #41 their comments were not in the same league as Big Ron. Officials are denigrated for all sorts of reasons as we know week in week out.

    And look the media have moved on this week!

  • Comment number 43.

    @ 42 and so have Jim's regular bloggers judging by the post rate in the last 72 hrs... and here's me giving HerrBaader @33 short shrift and letting them know just how good a blog this is!!!

    Jim - your audience awaits.

  • Comment number 44.

    #43 I agree.

    The transfer window has closed now Jim and contributors to your blog might be driven onto the Tim Vickery blog (invariably good) or heaven forbid McNulty!


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