Gray sacked over lewd request to Sky colleague

New video leak threatens Richard Keys' future, while pundit hires lawyers over dismissal
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The Independent Football

The future of Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys looked in fresh doubt last night after an embarrassing new video was released on the internet after a day in which pundit Andy Gray was sacked over footage of him making suggestive remarks to a female colleague.

The Keys' footage appeared briefly on YouTube yesterday evening and was quickly taken down but not before its content was spread across message boards and Twitter. It is understood to show Keys in a Sky Sports studio making offensive remarks about a former girlfriend of the pundit Jamie Redknapp.

As of last night Keys seemed to have survived but his position must again be in question this morning. Yesterday, with pressure building from all sides on Gray, a £1.7m-a-year pundit, Sky Sports' managing director Barney Francis announced at 4pm that the former Scotland international's contract with Sky had been terminated. Later, lawyers Schillings said they had been instructed by Gray over his dismissal.

Gray's position was made untenable by a third leak – the second piece of video footage that has emerged during the scandal – which came out earlier yesterday. Keys was not implicated in either of those two pieces of video footage.

The evidence that did for Gray yesterday was taken during rehearsals for last year's Christmas special. With Sky Sports presenter Charlotte Jackson adjusting a microphone pack, Gray can be seen pulling up the belt of his trousers. "Charlotte, can you tuck this down here for me?" he asks, laughing, while he tries to attract Jackson's attention.

While Jackson ignores Gray, Keys can be seen giggling. Yesterday a Sky Sports spokesman said that Gray's contract had been terminated in relation to that incident, which took place last month. "The decision, which is effective immediately, was made in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour."

Francis went on to describe Gray's behaviour as "unacceptable", adding: "After issuing a warning yesterday, we have no hesitation in taking this action after becoming aware of new information [yesterday]."

The storm around Gray and Keys first broke when a recording of them making disparaging remarks about the female referee's assistant Sian Massey before Liverpool's game at Wolves became public. That was followed on Monday by further leaked video footage of Gray and the Sky Sports reporter Andy Burton discussing Massey's looks. Again, Gray was highly critical.

Keys is understood to have apologised to Sky Sports staff on behalf of himself and Gray on Sunday as well as calling Massey. That response is thought to have saved him yesterday. Burton has been suspended from the coverage of tonight's Carling Cup semi-final second leg between Birmingham City and West Ham.

Gray, 55, the 1977 Professional Footballers' Association player of the year, discovered yesterday that his old-school sense of humour and his brusque manner had left him with few friends in either his former profession of football or within the media. The condemnation from leading newspaper columnists was virtually universal – and there was a notable silence from his fellow ex-professionals.

It is also telling that all three leaks – the original recording, thought to have been done with a digital device rather than via the studio mics, and the two subsequent out-takes – have come from inside Sky Sports. Those at Sky Sports say that the unpopularity of the pair means that the suspects' list is a long one.

Yesterday the England manager, Fabio Capello, said that he fully supported the promotion of female officials to elite-level football. "I didn't hear what they [Keys and Gray] said but I was at the Wolves game. I played a lot of games with women linesmen. Every time they were focused, and made the correct decisions."

In his native Italy, Cristina Cini, a groundbreaking lineswoman, often officiated at games involving his teams. "I have heard there is a sexism row," Capello said. "The women linesmen are good in Italy and Spain." Capello did clash with the female fourth official Amelie Masiu, 29, who was part of the referee's team in England's pre-World Cup friendly against the South African side Platinum Stars.

Sacking Gray was a major decision for Francis, 40, who took over the most powerful job in sport on television in the country in July 2009. He has bucked suggestions that his relative youth, as well as Gray and Keys' well-known dominance of Sky Sports, would discourage him from making a tough call.

Massey, a 25-year-old PE teacher, was also taken off duty for last night's League Two game between Crewe Alexandra and Bradford City. Mike Riley, the head of the referees' organisation, said that she was an "excellent professional who has unwittingly found herself in the middle of a story that has nothing to do with her competence as a match official".

The Football Association said yesterday that the scandal had led to an unprecedented number of calls from women who wanted to find out about becoming qualified match officials.

Likely lads? Who's in line to replace Gray at Sky?

Jamie Redknapp (Odds: 5-2)

The former Liverpool captain, 37, has grown as a pundit, first for the BBC and now Sky Sports. He would be a popular choice, as long as he can curb his habit of using the word "literally" – he recently stated that Gareth Bale "literally" had three lungs.

Glenn Hoddle (9-2)

Since leaving football management in 2006, Hoddle has made regular appearances as a pundit. The 53-year-old recently signed a new one-year deal with Sky Sports to continue as a pundit for the channel's Premier League and Champions League coverage.

Ray Wilkins (5-1)

Former Chelsea assistant has appeared as a pundit in recent years in between his coaching stints at Fulham, Millwall and Chelsea. He has regularly appeared for Sky Sports, though his most well-known punditry role came in adverts for Tango during the 1990s.