Andy Gray: I've been stitched up
Published 23:01 25/01/11 By Mark Jeffries
Andy Gray last night called in his lawyers and told pals he is considering suing Sky after being ousted from the job he loves.
The presenter paid the price for sexist remarks aimed at assistant referee Sian Massey as well as comments he made about co-star Charlotte Jackson.
But the furious 55-year-old claimed he had been stitched up by bosses who used the furore surrounding his remarks to oust him and pave the way for the promotion of younger presenters.
And it was said he had been prevented from apologising to Massey, even though co-host Richard Keys had been allowed to say sorry for similar remarks he made during the same show.
Some sources also fear his axing after 18 years as the face of Sky football could be linked to his legal dispute with the News of the World over the alleged phone tapping scandal, as both Sky and the paper are owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Gray was last night talking to lawyers and is thinking about legal action after being booted off his £1.7million-a-year post.
One source said: “He feels like he has been stitched up and people working against him at Sky have set all this up to get him the boot. He loved doing that job and didn’t get much of a chance to get his point of view across.
“But it feels like a changing of the guard at Sky and this will give bosses a chance to promote Ben Shephard and Jamie Redknapp quicker.”
Gray had been given a final warning after being recorded off-air saying Massey would “not know the offside rule” when he heard she would be officiating at the Wolves versus Liverpool Premier League clash at the weekend.
But he was fired when new footage was revealed of him telling 33-year-old Jackson in December to “tuck him in” as he gestured towards his crotch with a microphone. He laughed at his sexist remark as she ignored him.
Gray’s fiancée Rachel Lewis claimed last night he had wanted to say sorry himself but had been advised not to.
Speaking at their home, she said: “He’s wanted to apologise for the last few days, desperately. He was told not to by Sky.”
Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis said: “Gray’s contract has been terminated for unacceptable behaviour.
“After issuing a warning, we have no hesitation in taking this action after becoming aware of new information.”
But experts say Gray could have a case for unfair dismissal as his comments were made off-air.
Employment lawyer Andrew Haywood from legal firm Dawsons LLP said: “Should he pursue a claim, the burden will be on Sky to show it dismissed him fairly.”
The star’s lawyers Schillings said: “We have been instructed by Andy Gray in relation to the termination of his contract by BSkyB. It would be inappropriate for our client to comment at this time.”
Gray and Keys were dropped from Monday night’s coverage of Bolton versus Chelsea after their remarks.
Sky Sports reporter Andy Burton, who was chatting to Gray when the comments were made, was also disciplined.
He has been taken off tonight’s Carling Cup semi-final clash between Birmingham and West Ham. It was not know when, or if, he and Keys will be back on screen.
Gray’s sacking shocked football.
His friend and Plymouth Argyle manager Peter Reid claimed the sacking was “unfair”.
BBC Radio 5 Live’s Victoria Derbyshire added: “Worked with Andy during 2002 World Cup, he was charming, respectful, hard working and a good laugh.”
But some Sky insiders claim Gray has made enemies inside the station. One said he and Keys “walked around like they owned Sky Sports”.
Former presenter Sam Matterface said: “When I first started Andy Gray had a bit of an aura of being untouchable.
“But I’m not really surprised another incident has come to light, if I am honest. I had heard stories, rumours and anecdotes about him and his behaviour. I had the feeling he wasn’t popular.”
Apprentice star Lord Sugar added: “Sky have shut the door to sexism, shame they didn’t throw away the Keys.”
Stressed Massey pulled out of last night’s match between Crewe and Bradford.
Dad Stephen said: “I’ve been fielding calls all day. People are asking if she is OK.”