The cheap sex­ist com­ment that turned my life up­side down and took me to the brink of sui­cide

Daily Record - - FRONT PAGE - BY KEITH JACK­SON k.jack­son@dai­

IN JAN­UARY 2011, Andy Gray sat in a Sky Sports com­men­tary box and made a throw­away sex­ist com­ment which al­tered the course of his life. The for­mer player turned pun­dit joined in with col­league Richard Keys to laugh at and ques­tion the abil­i­ties of a fe­male lines­man. Gray re­grets the re­marks – made when the cam­eras were meant to be switched off – but claims they opened the flood­gates for a witch­hunt at for­mer em­ploy­ers Sky. In this ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with our chief sports writer Keith Jack­son, Gray re­veals how much he is still hurt­ing over the in­ci­dent and out­lines why he be­lieves it was him who be­came the vic­tim

EVEN from 4500 miles away, the voice on the other end of the line is un­mis­tak­able. The best part of 30 years in broad­cast­ing will do that.

But these trade­mark tones have never sounded quite like this be­fore, as they be­gin to trem­ble and crack with emo­tion.

Then again, it’s not ev­ery day Andy Gray con­fronts the de­mons of his dark­est mo­ments. And the sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies which came rush­ing in be­side them.

“No one re­alised the depths to which I had plunged. I was a shell of a per­son,” Gray says as he looks back on this brush with his own mor­tal­ity.

It’s Jan­uary 2011 and his whole world has just come crash­ing down around him. Worse still, it’s all his own fault.

A cheap shot – and not even a par­tic­u­larly funny one – aimed at a fe­male of­fi­cial in a stereo­typ­i­cal, lad­dish style. Ques­tion­ing Sian Massey’s cre­den­tials to run the line in the Premier League when “every­one knows women don’t un­der­stand the off­side rule”.

That it was de­liv­ered when Sky TV’s cam­eras were not meant to be rolling made no ma­te­rial dif­fer­ence.

“When it was sub­se­quently placed in the pub­lic do­main – and fol­lowed by more leaks of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour from Sky’s cut­ting room floor –Gray was cut adrift and left to drown in the storm of sex­ism al­le­ga­tions which fol­lowed.

“I’m not bit­ter be­cause that would mean I think about it ev­ery day. I don’t,” Gray says as he com­poses him­self with a swig of iced wa­ter.

“But I am still an­gry about what hap­pened.

“You know what? Eight years ago, I was at the side of a foot­ball pitch and I made a com­ment. It was prob­a­bly what 90 per cent of the sup­port­ers who walked into the sta­dium that day were say­ing when they saw Sian was run­ning the line. A cheap, throw­away line.

“Should I have said it? No. Do I re­gret say­ing it? Of course I do. But from that mo­ment on, ev­ery­thing just snow­balled. “I thought that af­ter 20 year­splus do­ing what I had done for the com­pany, I de­served some sup­port. What I got was as­sas­si­nated by ev­ery­body, par­tic­u­larly the Mur­doch press. I don’t for­give them for that. “Lis­ten, a lot of peo­ple will say, ‘It’s your own fault, you shouldn’t have said

it’. But we were in an en­vi­ron­ment like a dress­ing room. If I told you half the things that were said by other play­ers and man­agers, it would make what I said about Sian pale into in­signif­i­cance.

“So I was stag­gered when I got no sup­port from Sky. All I got was sacked and thrown in the bin.”

One of the most recog­nis­able voices in foot­ball is quiv­er­ing now. Strain­ing un­der the weight of those mem­o­ries.

Just be­fore it breaks down on him, he adds: “Had it not been for a young Ir­ish­man called Moz Dee at Talksport, I don’t know where I would be to­day.”

For the drown­ing man, a life­line. Within three weeks of their sack­ing from Sky, Dee throws Gray and co-host Richard Keys a redemp­tion shot on com­mer­cial ra­dio.

On re­flec­tion, it was a great deal more than just a job of­fer.

So what ex­actly does he mean when he says he doesn’t know where he’d be to­day? Had it re­ally taken such a toll that he con­tem­plated end­ing it all?

Gray takes a deep gulp of breath on the other end of the line and says: “Yeah, be­cause no one un­der­stood how badly it had hit me. I was very down. And that’s never been a part of my per­son­al­ity.

“But what they were try­ing to do to me, what they were ac­cus­ing me of be­ing? It just got to me.

“For six weeks I didn’t look at a pa­per and I never watched the news. I couldn’t be­cause I didn’t recog­nise the per­son they were all talk­ing about.

“It was hor­ren­dous. I was be­ing hung, drawn and quar­tered by ev­ery­body. That’s fine if that’s the price I had to pay for what I said.

“But I was an­gry that Sky didn’t of­fer any kind of sup­port.”

What they did do was al­low more leaked clips to pour fuel on to a rag­ing fire.

Gray says: “They were leaked by Sky, 100 per cent. That was ob­vi­ous be­cause they were the only ones who had them. There was ob­vi­ously an agenda.

“I’ve seen so many peo­ple com­mit so many worse crimes on tele­vi­sion in terms of what they have said and done and yet they get backed by the broad­cast­ers 100 per cent. That’s great. They are so lucky, the guys who get a sec­ond chance. I see all sorts of peo­ple who I could name.

“So many peo­ple in this in­dus­try who have done so many worse things. Hor­rific things, hor­ri­ble things, dis­gust­ing things but they get wel­comed back with open arms.

“I don’t know why I didn’t get that. Maybe it was some­thing to do with the fact I was su­ing the News of the World at the time be­cause they had hacked my phone.

“Great isn’t it? I worked for the Mur­doch or­gan­i­sa­tion for 20 years and here they were hack­ing my phone. It was quite ex­tra­or­di­nary.

“So it wouldn’t sur­prise me if that was be­hind it as well.”

A stint be­hind the mic in a ra­dio stu­dio brought sta­bil­ity back into Gray’s life.

Af­ter two years on the air­waves, Keys and Gray were poached by Qatari broad­cast gi­ants beIN Sports and put back in front of the cam­eras, where they re­main to­day in a Doha stu­dio – dis­cussing the same English top flight which they helped to rev­o­lu­tionise in the early days at Sky. Gray is smil­ing now as he says: “The cur­rent day foot­ball player, when he goes to bed at night, he should say a lit­tle prayer to thank not just Sky TV but the peo­ple who started it. Be­cause if it had fallen flat on its face back then, it might never have got picked back up again. “But it didn’t fall flat on its face be­cause we were all foot­ball fans and we would not al­low it to. “So all these foot­ball play­ers who are earn­ing money be­yond be­lief should say, ‘Thank you guys for ev­ery­thing you did back in 92.” It’s some 26 years on now and count­ing. Gray’s own ca­reer is drift­ing to­wards ex­tra-time. But he hopes to go out with a very dif­fer­ent kind of bang. “The World Cup will be here in Qatar and that might just be the swan­song. By the end of that sea­son, it will be the sum­mer of 2023 and that might be the time for me to call it a day. I’m just hop­ing I can get through four more years with­out too much drama or any more crises.”

I see all sorts of peo­ple in this in­dus­try who have done so many worse things. Hor­rific things, hor­ri­ble things, dis­gust­ing things – but they get wel­comed back with open arms.

JIBE Sian was tar­get

WIN­NER Clinch­ing the league ti­tle with Ever­ton RE­GRETS For­mer foot­ball star Andy Gray at home. Pic: Paul Cooper/ Rex Fea­tures

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