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FA supports Sian Massey following off-air comments by Richard Keys and Andy Gray

The Football Association gave their wholehearted backing to assistant referee Sian Massey last night following off-air remarks made by Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys and pundit Andy Gray.

The pair commented on Massey's appointment for the game between Wolves and Liverpool at Molineux on Saturday, when they believed their microphones were switched off.

The pair concurred that female officials "don't know the offside rule" with Keys adding: "I can guarantee you there'll be a big one today. (Liverpool manager) Kenny (Dalglish) will go potty."

Massey crucially made a correct borderline call in the build-up to Liverpool's first goal at Molineux.

An FA statement 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."

Referees body Professional Game Match Officials issued a statement from their general manager Mike Riley which said: "All PGMO referees and assistant referees are appointed on merit and ability. They are assessed on their performances only."

Keys also went on to remark on comments made by West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady in The Sun on Saturday morning about the level of sexism in football by saying: "See charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love."

Sky Sports last night said Keys and Gray apologised for their comments.

They released a statement which read: "The comments 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."