Jayne Dowle: Women leave puerile pundits in penalty area

Any woman who watches football, indeed any woman who is involved in football at any level, from Karren Brady to the mums yelling at their kids on Sunday mornings, to the female coach who has to work twice as hard to earn respect, will tell you that men give them a hard time.

There is this assumption – not held by all men, it has to be said – but by enough of them, that women have no place whatsoever in the male game, except perhaps as half-time cheerleaders, decorative objects in the bar, and tea-makers. Hold a view on formation? Pass judgement on the back four? Ponder aloud whether that new striker could even get a game with a Sunday league pub team? Nah. Women don't know anything.

So it came as no surprise that Andy Gray and Richard Keys got caught making derogatory comments about the female linesman, Sian Massey, West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, and basically, any woman who happened to come within their football orbit.

Frankly, the "sexist" insults don't bother me. In the words of that old Squeeze song; "she doesn't mind the language, it's the beating she don't need." What does bother me is that neither Sian Massey or Karren Brady were in the same room at the same time as Gray and Keys were mouthing off. If they had have been there, they would have given as good as they got.

What these silly male dinosaurs don't realise is that we female fans enjoy making our own sport out of winding up them. I think it's what is known as "banter". We do understand football, and we also understand the tribal mentality. When the lads start with the insults, the trick is to pick off the weakest (ie the least quick-witted) in the pack and give them some verbal back. They will soon flounder, much to the amusement of their mates.

When I mentioned this to one (male) football friend, he replied: "What would you say to the bloke then? You're rubbish at multi-tasking, you."

I assured him that it gets much ruder than that.

Reading this, you might be thinking that arguing with a bunch of beery blokes doesn't sound like the most enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon. But if you're a woman and you like football, if you go to matches, officiate or commentate, then you're not joining a ladies' sewing circle. You're going to have to be tough.

There has been a lot of public hand-wringing about sexism, acceptable behaviour etc etc since this row blew up. Much of it is hot air. Gray and Keys were professionals, paid mega-bucks to do an unbiased job. They were seriously out of order and should have had more sense and less arrogance.

But I don't have much patience with the women who want to sanitise the game and make the boys behave. It ain't gonna happen, so we might as well use our energy instead to prove that we have as much right to be at a match as they have. And that's not to ooh over the footballers' legs, or to chat. It's to watch, patiently, waiting for the moments of sheer technical brilliance that make the cost and the cold worth it.

I do wonder whether the Andy Grays of this world are so protective of their football because they recognise it is something of a final blokeish bastion.

But it is a bastion coming under attack from female commentators, businesswomen such as Ms Brady, and of course, female fans. And that's not to mention the phenomenal growth of women's football in recent years, the matter of which is a whole different ball game, so to speak.

Personally, I have never questioned my right to be at a football match, or to hold an opinion on a team's performance. But that's because I was brought up to love football by my grandad. He was desperate for a son or grandson to pass his enthusiasm on to. He never got one, but he had me, standing in the rec with him on foggy afternoons, watching 22 miners kick the hell out of each other, and occasionally, the ball. Grandad never swore, but I learned the F-word from somewhere, because I am on record as using it – to my mother's mortification – when I was four.

And that little matter of women and the offside rule? Was that really the best insult that Gray and Keys could think of? Give us a break, we've heard it a million times. I once had to sit behind some fella at a match explaining it to his girlfriend in terms of desperately trying to buy a handbag in a sale, getting in a queue and passing her purse (and new handbag) to the friend she spotted at the till.

I don't think there is any need for that, is there ladies? So let's just say that if a woman can cook Christmas dinner for 12, juggle the points on her Tesco Clubcard, keep track of six kids in a swimming pool, and get her head round her own tax return, then the offside rule should present no problems whatsoever.

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