Legendary sports commentator Martin Tyler discusses sexism in football

Seven years after Andy Gray and Richard Keys left Sky Sports following sexist and derogatory comments about lineswoman Sian Massey and their former co-worker, Martin Tyler explains how their exit made the industry a better place, Charlotte Duncker writes. 

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When Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler heard the news that Andy Gray had been sacked in 2011 he was in a state of shock.

The 63-year-old, who still works in sports media, was dismissed following multiple reports of sexism, and his co-worker Richard Keys then left, but his friend and former colleague Tyler believes it could have been a case of wrong place, wrong time for his former colleagues.

“I think the world is a better place if some of these things happen,” Tyler told Offside Rule Exclusives.

“There will be people who shouldn’t necessarily be victims of it. But, because the world needs it to improve, and I do think it’s massively improved, whether they were just in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing.”

Keys later described the remarks as ‘prehistoric banter’ and Tyler revealed he didn’t escape either. 

“Their defence would be that everything they said was with good humour and fun,” Tyler added. “I can say from personal experience, because even some of it was directed at me, that it wasn’t always good humour and fun, but I genuinely believe they thought that it was.

“It made everyone sit up and take notice and it was an issue, and there have been issues in recent times and I do think inclusivity is a really important thing.”

Over seven years on from the incident and Tyler still believes more needs to be done to promote female commentators.

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“I think one of the issues that’s always said is that the female voice doesn’t lend itself to the gravitas if you like, and that’s only part of commentary. It’s a different pitch” Tyler said.

“Part of being a successful broadcaster is getting over the hurdle of being a new voice to being a comfortable voice, and once you do that you get away with a lot more mistakes.”

But Tyler is confident Vicki Sparks, who became the first female commentator on a live World Cup match in the UK, can become a ‘comfortable’ voice.

“I don’t think the door is shut, perhaps someone needs to pull it back from the inside as much as a woman commentator needs to barge through it,” Tyler said.

“I think it will happen, I don’t see any reason at all why it shouldn’t. There’s a meritocracy in it, you have to be good at it. We don’t need tokenism.”

The Offside Rule Exclusives is a monthly podcast series from the makers of The Offside Rule (We Get It!).

You can listen to the full episode with Martin Tyler on Audioboom

Or download via iTunes

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