Leading article: Playing the woman, not the ball

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They're right, of course – all those who said that the sexist banter between Andy Gray and Richard Keys was actually more offensive for being "off-mic" than it would have been if it had been "on". As with Baroness Warsi and her dinner-party test for anti-Muslim sentiment, so the off-mic test is a telling measure of inner prejudice.

Gray and Keys would never have dreamt of confiding to the nation's Sky Sports viewers what they were oh so comfortable confiding to each other. Suspension from the commentary box last night was far too gentle; a half-time public tongue-lashing from Karren Brady would have been more like it.

That said, we have to wonder about the primacy of the offside rule as the standard gauge of an official's footballing competence. Sian Massey, the female assistant referee complained of, got it right. (Of course she did.) But if, as it seems, the definition of offside undergoes more amendments before the start of each season than a government anti-terrorist Bill, and if its most arcane mysteries have to be shared among the cognoscenti by way of shoe-shop analogies and table-top exercises with HP Sauce bottles, then surely the time has come to repeal it. Now there's a concept even the dimmest male referee would understand.

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