Pundits dropped

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LONDON, January 24- A pair of British television football pundits caught up in a sexism row have been dropped from covering Monday's Premier League game between Bolton and Chelsea.

Andy Gray, the former Scotland international, and Richard Keys were stood down by Sky Sports after making "unacceptable remarks" off-air about a woman assistant referee officiating at Saturday’s match between Wolves and Liverpool.

Gray, a pundit, and Keys, a presenter, caused a stir when believing their microphones to be switched off discussed lineswoman Sian Massey and agreeing that female officials "don’t know the offside rule".

Keys added: "I can guarantee you there’ll be a big one today. (Liverpool manager) Kenny (Dalglish) will go potty."

Keys, who has been in trouble before with remarks made off air but caught on microphone, later apologised to Massey after he had been told he would not be presenting the Monday night game – Massey accepted it.

Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, said: "I have spoken directly to both Richard Keys and Andy Gray this morning.

"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.

"In addition, Richard and Andy will not be involved in any way with tonight’s live Monday Night Football."

The Football Association gave their support to Massey, and England captain Rio Ferdinand also stepped in to the row, defending Massey against the Sky duo’s "prehistoric views".

Ferdinand, writing on his Twitter account, said: "I’m all for women refereeing in football, discrimination should not happen in our game at all…prehistoric views if you think otherwise."

Massey defied Keys and Gray’s opinions by making a correct borderline call in the build-up to Liverpool’s first goal at Molineux, and Ferdinand added: "Did anyone see the decision the lineswoman made in the Liverpool vs Wolves game…top decision. Judge them like men on their ability to ref."

The FA gave their reaction in a statement which read: "The FA has made real strides in encouraging both male and female match officials to enter the game at every level, and will continue to offer every encouragement to all officials within the football family to progress to the highest levels possible.

"We are proud to have some of the world’s best match officials, both male and female.

"Overall the number of female referees in England (Levels 1-8) stands at 853 and climbing, and all of our female match officials act as fantastic ambassadors for the game.

"They have our wholehearted and continuing support."

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