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Offside! Sky TV pundits accused of sexist jibes

The backlash against Sky Sports football presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys is building after the pair suffered what might be dubbed a "Big Ron" moment when they were recorded pouring scorn on a female assistant referee (formerly known as linesmen).

Commenting on Sian Massey, 25, before Liverpool's match with Wolves on Saturday, Keys said: "Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her."

Gray, a former Scotland striker, replied: "Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don't know the offside rule."

The comments were not broadcast, but a recording was leaked by an anonymous source.

Gray can also be heard describing Wendy Toms, who has worked as an assistant referee in the Premier League, as "fucking hopeless".

Later in the exchange, Keys said: "The game's gone mad. Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love."

The England captain Rio Ferdinand later criticised their remarks, saying: "What's wrong with a woman being an official in a football game? I'm cool with it, all that counts is do they get the decisions right?"

In Ms Massey's case, she did. During the game, which Liverpool won 3-0, she angered Wolves by refusing to rule Raul Meireles offside before he set up Liverpool's first goal. But the replay showed that she had made the correct decision.

Female denizens of the soccer world reacted with a light-heartedness missing from the original comments. The football presenter Kelly Cates, daughter of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, blogged yesterday: "Phew am exhausted. Just read about something called 'the offside rule'. Too much for my tiny brain. Must be damaged from nail polish fumes."

In 2006, Luton Town's then manager Mike Newell was fined by the Football Association after he said: "What are women doing here? It's tokenism for the politically correct idiots."

A spokesman for Sky said last night: "The comments reported today are not acceptable. They were not made on air but we have spoken to Richard and Andy and told them our views and they have apologised and expressed their regret."