January 24, 2011 / 2:56 PM / in 7 years

Soccer pundits rapped for mocking female referee

<p>Assistant referee Sian Massey runs during during the English Premier League soccer match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool at Molineux in Wolverhampton, central England on January 22, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Staples</p>

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Two male British sports presenters have been reprimanded after questioning the ability of women to officiate over soccer matches.

Sky sports host Richard Keys and pundit Andy Gray were talking off-air about assistant referee Sian Massey ahead of a Premier League match between Wolves and Liverpool on Saturday.

Believing their microphones were off, they agreed female officials “don’t know the offside rule.”

Speaking ahead of the match, Keys said “somebody better get down there and explain offside to her” to which Gray responded “women don’t know the offside rule.”

Keys then said ”of course they don‘t,“ before adding: ”I can guarantee you there’ll be a big one today.

In fact, Massey, 25, made the correct call on a difficult borderline decision, allowing Liverpool’s opening goal to count.

Sky said in a statement on Monday: ”It has been made clear to each of them that their comments were totally unacceptable.

“We have dealt with this matter by taking immediate disciplinary action.”

Sue Tibballs, chief executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, said the men’s views were “outdated bunkum.”

“Our research shows that if you ask kids ... whether sports are for girls or boys, they are much more open-minded, and sport is becoming less gendered, if you like, in their eyes,” Tibballs told Sky News.

“Obviously, for people that are older in years, they are holding attitudes that are not in step with that.”

More than 850 women are referees in England.

Writing by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Steve Addison

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