Sky reporter disciplined for Massey comments
The controversy surrounding comments by Sky Sports presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray took a new twist today when reporter Andy Burton was disciplined for referring to assistant referee Sian Massey as a "bit of a looker".
Burton was stood down from tomorrow night's Carling Cup semi-final second leg between Birmingham and West Ham after footage emerged of him remarking on the appearance of Massey.
It followed Sky Sports' decision to remove Keys and Gray from duty before last night's Barclays Premier League game between Bolton and Chelsea after both were recorded making off-air remarks about Massey.
Burton became implicated in the controversy yesterday after Sky Sports' sister station Sky News broadcast footage of a touchline conversation between him and Gray prior to Saturday's Premier League game between Wolves and Liverpool.
Keys and Gray were recorded before the same match questioning Massey's appointment for the fixture, claiming women "don't know the offside rule".
Sky Sports declined to comment this morning on when the pair would be back fronting their football coverage.
The broadcaster insisted they had not been sacked for their disparaging remarks but was unable to confirm exactly when the duo - who have been the faces of the network's football coverage for two decades - would be back on the air.
Sky's next high-profile live match is tomorrow night's Carling Cup clash, but Keys and Gray tend not to front coverage of that particular competition.
With this weekend being the fourth round of the FA Cup, for which Sky do not hold the live rights, the next presenting opportunity for the pair would appear to be the Premier League match between West Brom and Wigan on Tuesday week.
Massey, meanwhile, will be back in the spotlight tonight when she runs the line in Crewe's npower League Two game with Bradford.
Keys telephoned the official on Sunday night to apologise for his remarks, which were said off air but were picked up by microphone and leaked to the media.
Gray did not call Massey to say sorry but Sky Sports insisted today Keys had done so on behalf of them both.
A spokesman told Press Association Sport Massey had accepted Keys' apology, adding: "It wasn't a case of Andy not apologising.
"It doesn't really make sense for both of them to call."
It was not known this afternoon whether Burton would make a similar apology and neither is it known whether Keys has apologised to West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, who he also disparaged for suggesting sexism was rife in the game.
Brady said Keys and Gray's comments about Massey "make my blood boil" and she was joined by a number of anti-discrimination groups in condemning the pair's remarks.
Sky Sports' managing director Barney Francis issued a statement yesterday, which read: "It has been made clear to each of them that their comments were totally unacceptable.
"Those views are inexcusable, entirely inconsistent with our ethos as a business and employer, and will rightly offend many of our customers, our people, and the wider public.
"They are inexcusable from anyone at Sky, regardless of their role or seniority. We have dealt with this matter by taking immediate disciplinary action.
"As with any employee it would not be right to go into detail on those proceedings.
"However, they have been clearly warned about their behaviour and reminded of their responsibilities."
The decision to stand the duo down from last night's broadcast saw Sky disband their usual Isleworth-based studio operation, with a new team sent at the last minute to Bolton.
The programme was presented by David Jones instead of Keys, while Jamie Redknapp and Eidur Gudjohnsen were drafted in as pundits.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Football Association switchboard was inundated with calls yesterday from women inquiring about becoming officials.