Richard Keys last night resigned from Sky Sports over the sexism scandal, having given a no-holds-barred radio interview in which the once loyal company man, who has been the face of the broadcaster's football coverage for 20 years, turned on his employers.
Identifying "dark forces" as having prevented him from making public his apology to Sian Massey, the female referee's assistant, earlier in the week, Keys suggested that his own strategy for dealing with the sexist remarks made by him and colleague Andy Gray had differed radically from that of his bosses.
In a resignation statement last night Keys followed Gray out of Sky saying that working without his former colleague would have been "almost impossible". Gray, sacked on Tuesday after further video evidence of him making a lewd comment to presenter Charlotte Jackson had emerged, said yesterday that he was "devastated".
But it was Keys who made the most spectacular exit. In an interview on talkSport radio which lasted more than an hour he apologised unreservedly for his remarks about Massey and, in the light of subsequent video footage leaks, even suggested that he himself needed counselling. But he also went on to attack Sky's handling of the crisis and made digs at the likes of Rio Ferdinand and West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady for their criticism of him since the original scandal blew up in a Sunday newspaper. Asked whether he felt there was a conspiracy at Sky to force him out by the leaking of video footage, Keys said that he believed people were looking "even now" for evidence to damn him.
Keys' departure would cap a remarkable five days for Sky Sports, who lost the two faces of their coverage and now begin the search for a new presenting team to repair their once gleaming reputation as the undisputed home of live English football coverage.
It was Keys' attack on Sky earlier in the day that appeared to seal his fate. He was angry that, having called Massey to apologise on Sunday, just after the story first appeared, and having smoothed matters over with the 25-year-old PE teacher, whose ability to officiate he had called into question, he was then prevented from making that apology public.
"Now, there are some dark forces at work here," Keys said. "I, having done that [apologised], asked could we make people aware of the fact that we have had a conversation and that both parties felt it was best to move on. I was told 'No'. And 24 hours passed, by which time the world had gone mad. Now, I don't know why I was told no. I don't know why I was stopped from telling people that that's what I had done."
Video footage emerged on Tuesday night in which Keys made offensive comments about an unnamed woman. He said in the clip his fellow pundit Jamie Redknapp had "smashed it"– "it" being the woman and "smashed" Keys' word for sex. He also used the phrase "hanging out the back of it" – "it", again, being the woman. Keys suggested that he might require therapy.
"[The comments were] shocking, horrible, out of order, wrong, old-fashioned, no place [for them], behavioural problems that need to be attended to... yeah, reconstruction. Again, it's a very selective moment from that studio. Read into that what you will, it shouldn't have happened, it did. It's something I'm enormously upset about, not for myself... but to the far greater watching and listening public. That's wrong."
But Keys also made dramatic claims about others. He was outspoken on Ferdinand, the England captain, who had used his Twitter page to describe Keys and Gray's comments about Massey as "prehistoric". Keys said: "I noticed Rio Ferdinand tweeted and said 'Prehistoric banter, no place for it'. Rio, are you telling me it does not take place in the Manchester United dressing room? Because, my information says it does. Now that is not to say it's right."
On Brady, Keys said that she had used the storm to deflect attention from West Ham's failed attempt to replace their manager, Avram Grant, with Martin O'Neill. "A by-product of all of this, it took her and West Ham out of the press," Keys said. "Now she claimed that was because she is a woman. That is her view. It is not necessarily mine. It might be others do not share that either. She played that card, rightly or wrongly."
Keys' claim that the secret recording of him and Gray that began the whole scandal on Saturday was akin to the phone-hacking scandal haunting Sky Sports' parent company, News Corp, was the kind of career-suicide remark that would have gone down very badly within the Rupert Murdoch empire.
But there were also worrying signs that Keys had not learnt his lesson. On Gray's lewd comments to Jackson, Keys said "Charlotte can handle herself". He seemed more concerned that the unidentified individual who posted the clip on YouTube had spelt his name wrongly than what the clip said about sexual politics in the Sky Sports office.
Barney Francis, the managing director of Sky Sports, said: "It is disappointing that Richard's career at Sky should end in these circumstances. However, Richard recognises that his comments at the weekend were unacceptable and we note that he has made a full and public apology."