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Saturday 05 February 2011

Andy Gray sacked by Sky Sports following 'unacceptable behaviour' towards Charlotte Jackson

Andy Gray has been sacked by Sky Sports after a new off-air clip emerged of him engaging in what his employer has deemed to be “unacceptable behaviour” towards fellow presenter Charlotte Jackson.

Barney Francis, Sky Sports' managing director, said Gray was dismissed "in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour in off-air incident that took place in December 2010." Gray and colleague Richard Keys had already been subjected to disciplinary action for the sexist comments they made about Sian Massey on Saturday.

It is understood that the Sky statement refers directly to this clip of Gray and Jackson in rehearsals for the Sky Sports Christmas Special.

While Jackson is attaching a microphone pack, Gray lifts his belt and says: "Charlotte, can you tuck this down here for me." The comment is ignored by Jackson, although it does seem to provoke a giggle from his fellow presenter Richard Keys.

It comes just a day after both Keys and Gray provoked outrage for their off-air comments during Saturday’s match between Liverpool and Wolves in which they disparaged female officials and agreed that women did not understand the offside rule.

They were both stood down from the match between Chelsea and Bolton after Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis personally oversaw disciplinary action against them.

Francis was also centrally involved in today’s decision to sack Gray. “Andy Gray’s contract has been terminated for unacceptable behaviour,” said Francis. “After issuing a warning yesterday, we have no hesitation in taking this action after becoming aware of new information today.”

Gray, who has been Sky Sports’ main football pundit since the launch of the Premier League in 1992, was also involved in a second incident at the Wolves-Liverpool match that showed him making further sexist remarks about Massey.

That footage occurred before the Wolves-Liverpool match and was first broadcast on Sky News. In it, reporter Andy Burton claims a colleague described Massey as a “bit of a looker”.

“He says she is alright,” Burton added. “Now I don't know if I should trust his judgement on that?”

Gray replied: “Nah, I wouldn't. I definitely wouldn't.”

A member of the Sky team then refers to Massey again, and Gray is heard saying: “I can see her from here. What do women know about the offside rule?”

Burton has also faced disciplinary action and has been stood down from the Carling Cup match between Birmingham and West Ham United tomorrow night.

Both Keys and Burton have been warned about their conduct. Keys telephoned Massey on Sunday night and his apology has been accepted by the 25 year-old school teacher. According to one source, Keys was “very contrite”.

However, Sky are still refusing to confirm when Keys will return to his job. Massey has also been stood down from her role as assistant referee at tonight’s match between Crewe and Bradford in order to protect her from the huge media presence that was expected at the game.

Saturday was only her second Premier League game as an assistant referee and, at the Coventry school where she works, there were a mass of cameras yesterday. Media were also waiting outside her home and she stayed at an alternative address last night.

Massey has risen through the football pyramid since officiating her first game 10 years ago and, according to her friends, has been heartened by the overwhelmingly supportive response.

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