Gray, Keys, and a note on ‘innocent’ bantering

January 27, 2011

The behaviours of Andy Gray and Richard Keys have been described as “innocent bantering” . I suggest that the term is an oxymoron. It implies a power relationship which deserves more critical reflection that it usually receives.

My proposition is that bantering is a term which signals a hidden power relationship. The power may be de haut en bas (what royals do because they have been brought up that way to express superiority in a condescending way). Or what less powerful groups do to express inarticulate uncertainties about “the other” (women, football opponents or people of different ethnicity).

Far from innocent

Whatever banter is, the adjective “innocent” is not as appropriate as its use implies. The term innocent bantering has a kind of defensiveness about it. Perhaps it is used to excuse inappropriate behaviour. We can find quite a few examples from actions of members of the royal family.

The Princes Harry and Philip

Stephen Bates in the Guardian, [January 12th 2009] examined the controversy following a video film of his fellow solders made by Prince Harry. The video included terms such as “pakis” and “ragheads” . These expressions were subsequently defended as innocent banter. I couldn’t help remembering a long line of public remarks by his grandfather Prince Philip which also made headlines briefly, but were widely dismissed as reflections of his upbringing, rather than insensitivities to the world in which he moved.

Expressions of affection

Those who take the “innocent banter” line argue that any offending remarks are made as an expression of affection. The implication in the case of the royals is that a certain kind of upbringing makes it difficult for them to show more authentic displays of emotion.

But it’s not just the royals who engage in innocent bantering. I remember hearing a similar argument used by a prison officer some years ago. He explained to a (management training) class that he had no problem dealing with back prisoners because they liked the way he bantered with them. “I’d say ‘come on you silly black b*****d’ They know I’m saying I’m not out to get them.”

I could select various similar “good-natured” attempts at humour from comedians including Russell Brand, and (in the sporting sphere) almost any remarks by Geoffrey Boycott trying to be funny in public.

And so we turn to the sad business of Andy Gray and Richard Keys “bantering” about female officials. The career-ending episode caught on tape was that of Andy Gray and an approach to a female colleague.

Some dare call it power

The pattern of behaviour in all these examples demonstrates that the banter is far from innocent. It involves a power relationship which is difficult to express directly. It takes an academic like Cynthia Hardy to nail it for what it is. She wrote (in an article which you can Google) that “some dare call it power”.

When I dug a little deeper into this subject, I was surprised to discover that the term banter is of obscure origins. Its formal use can be traced to Shakespearean scholars who often cite the play Henry IV. [I am searching for an article from a researcher at Manchester metropolitan University which made the point] As might be expected, Shakespearean banter is subtle and revealing of hidden aspects of personality


See Jane Martinson’s piece for a critique of the issue. Advanced study: why do some people refer to the Guardian’s position on such issues “banteringly” as Guardian feminist claptrap?

The offside rule and discrimination in football explained (sort of).

January 25, 2011

Stop Press: Andy Gray sacked by Sky. The subject of football’s institutionalized culture of discrimination was brought under the spotlight when off-air remarks were recorded and made public. The conversation between Sky TV’s Andy Gray and Richard Keys, took place prior to a game on which they were about to commentate. It was to cost Gray his lucrative appointment.


Andy Gray and Richard Keys have been among the most respected journalists in Sky TV’s football broadcasting. They have helped build the franchise to a position of some market leadership in the UK. They had been preparing for broadcasting a match [January 2011] when they engaged in discussion about a young ‘assistant referee’ Sian Massey, a rising star in female sports administration. She had refereed the FA Women’s Premier League Cup final, FA Women’s Cup, women’s international fixtures including the Women’s World Cup and European Championship and many Football League matches [Image above].

The conversation was also scathing about Karren Brady a leading football entrepreneur and TV personality. Brady had written in her newspaper column that morning about the level of sexist abuse she had received recently.

The remarks by Gray and Keys were leaked and the story widely publicised and debated in the United Kingdom. The commentators were subsequently suspended from duty.

“Women don’t know the offside rule”

The Mail’s account of the incident was as follows

Andy Gray and Richard Keys were forced to apologise after sexist off-air comments about assistant referee Sian Massey were made public. Speaking to each other in the studio before the game, believing their microphones were off, Keys had said: ‘Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.’

Former Scotland striker Gray replied: ‘Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.’ To which Keys said: ‘Course they don’t. I can guarantee you there will be a big one today. Kenny (Liverpool manager Dalglish) will go potty. This isn’t the first time, is it? Didn’t we have one before? The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love.’

Appalling and medieval

The comments were labelled ‘appalling’ and ‘medieval’ by Football Against Racism in Europe, a group who work with UEFA to wipe out all discrimination in football. Executive director Piara Powar, [was quoted as saying] ‘Their comments reveal the appalling and damaging sexist attitudes that exist across football’

Two earlier off-air incidents

The incident was compared with two notorious remarks made off air, but recorded and publicised. The earlier one involved BBC football commentator Ron Atkinson who was fired as a result of his use of racist language. The more recent one occurred when Prime Minister Gordon Brown was campaigning in May 2010, when he raged against a woman whose views he described as racist.

The evidence for male discrimination

Conservative MP Dominic Raab contributed to the debate by saying that discrimination worked two ways, and that men were also subject to flagrant discrimination, accusing feminists of “obnoxious bigotry” Hie cited Labour politician Harriet Harman who had said that the banking crisis had been caused by men, and probably wouldn’t have happened if women had been in charge.

Offside too hard for tiny brains?

Former England women’s cricket captain Rachel Heyhoe-Flint was supportive of Keys and Gray, describing their exchange as “banter”.

The sexism debate even cropped up in Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish’s news conference after the match At the start, Dalglish jokingly asked Sky’s male reporter whether he minded that there was a woman present. The Scot’s daughter Kelly, a former presenter on Sky Sports News, joked on her Twitter account: “Phew, am exhausted. Just read about something called ‘the offside rule’. Too much for my tiny brain. Must be damaged from nail polish fumes.”

Leadership and discrimination

The debate has moved from a few ill-judged remarks by two football commentators to sweeping generalisations of the type:

“women can’t understand the offside rule”

“men are the cause of the world’s economic woes”

“feminists are obnoxious bigots”

“men are subject to unnoticed and flagrant discrimination”

Andy Gray fired by Sky

The debate continues with little evidence of critical reflection. But stop press: Andy Gray was fired by Sky after further incidents were brought to light [4.30 pm, Tuesday January 25th 2011]

Metaphors we lead by: Book Review

January 23, 2011

Metaphors we lead by, edited by Mats Alvesson and Andre Spicer, Routledge, 2011, 222pp
Reviewed by Tudor Rickards

Leadership is often associated with ambiguities and with a bias towards the heroic individual of high moral standards. This book offers a plausible explanation of these ambiguities from a critical theory perspective

One of the quests of management authors is to write a text that works for practicing managers and for business researchers. This is one of the few books which achieve that goal.

The metaphors we lead by

As its title suggests, Metaphors we lead by examines leadership through a series of metaphors as perspectives or maps. These were derived from investigations carried out by teams of researchers from Lund University Sweden. Each team provides one specific metaphor, which labels patterns of behaviour likely to be familiar to leadership practitioners and researchers. We find the commander figure of classical theory engaged in acts of direction and control. Then there is the saint (servant leader?); the buddy (mentor); the gardener (coach?); the cyborg (super-hero as tireless as a machine) and the bully (leadership’s dark secret).

Ways of seeing

The metaphors offer ‘ways of seeing’ in a way echoing the earlier influential book on images of organization by Gareth Morgan. The metaphors are of interest, as understanding leadership from various perspectives.

The conceptual framework

Leadership researchers will also find interest in its conceptual framework offered by editors Alvesson and Spicer. The framework proposes that perspectives of leadership differ within three inter-related domains, that of leaders, followers, and researchers/observers. It offers understanding into the nature of the ambiguities of leadership including its multitude of definitions. It is through their mutual creation of their organizational realities that images of organization and develop.

The framework from a critical perspective

One innovative aspect of the book for many managers will be its linking with a critical theoretical perspective. The editors seek to avoid “the uncritical celebration of leadership [and] to heroic individual” [p2]. Critical theory is itself a complex set of philosophic ideas. As a starting point consistent with this book, we might refer to an earlier work Professor Alvesson (together with another distinguished critical theorist):

“The capacity of human beings to reflect and think critically makes it possible to question and challenge mainstream management theory and practice (Alvesson & Wilmott 1996: 40)”.

This perspective is influential among researchers of leadership although one that is less familiar with many managers, who take for granted what is broadly a rational economic model of human behaviour. This derive from the classical approach to management (managerialism), which feeds into and draws on managerial ideas and actions. From it, we have the metaphor of the leader as commander, experienced in the means of command and control, and acting under conditions of rationality, and drawing on rational expectations to explain and understand human behaviours.

The new leadership ideas of the 1980s popularised the management of meaning. Symbolic leadership was offered as an alternative to the strictly managerialist approach. To be sure, symbolic leadership can be seen as retaining aspects of the heroic (and saintly) leader. However, as Alvesson and Spicer point out, the approach is dominated by ‘ a monologic’ view (a leader’s perspective). They proposes a ‘dialogic’ one in which the interplay between leaders and subordinates is more important than how a leader influences the meanings which followers develop of organisational duties and rights.

Bridging the gap

It is a matter of personal regret that I have witnessed ‘paradigm wars’ between colleagues who take a critical perspective and those who take a more traditional functionalist view of business. This book offers promise in helping bridge that gap to some degree. It offers possiblities to leaders and subordinates of considering new ‘ways of seeing’ leadership, particularly in its treatment within Business Schools around the world.


Alvesson M., & Spicer, A., (2011) Metaphors we lead by, Oxford: Routledge
Alvesson, M., & Wilmott, H., (1996), Making sense of management, London: Sage
Morgan, G., (1986) Images of organization, Newbury Park, Ca.: Sage

Cantona to re-create New York Cosmos. Is this for real?

January 19, 2011

Eric Cantona, soccer super-star and Manchester United legend, is to revive the New York Cosmos soccer team.

Is this for real, or are we falling under the spell of another piece of Eric’s creative magic

Eric Cantona. The name still rings down the terraces at Manchester United. Fans sing “On the seven days of Christmas” with the refrain “...and an Eric Cantona“. Don’t think you can get it right without training. Eric needs three stresses.

His mercurial career helped propel Manchester United ahead of their rivals. It also included memorable goals, “assists” (as we learned to call them), mystic press statements about seagulls and herrings [sardines actually, but see below for that] and a forced spell of community service. On field, he cultivated a collar-up strut that only little boys dared imitate. Even his warm-up routine was a work of art and worth the entry money.

He inevitably then chose a career with space for his ego and headed for the movies, even playing himself in Becoming Eric.

So is this for real?

Maybe. But the breaking story has an appropriate sense of fantasy about it. Eric has no managerial experience. Which is OK, because at present The New York Cosmos does not play in a league. In fact, they don’t even have a team. Marvellous. We await developments…

The sardines quote

The origins of the famous Cantona quote about trawlers and sardines were recently explained:

In 1995, Eric Cantona was at the height of his powers. But after being sent off in the game against Crystal Palace, he lost control of his emotions as he walked to the dressing room and launched a martial arts-style kick at a fan he alleged had verbally abused him. Sentenced to 100 hours’ community service for assault, Cantona’s actions made worldwide headlines. But his only comment to the press after his conviction was that one sentence.

“When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”

Many believed it was the work of a little known French philosopher. Others thought that Cantona had shown himself as a deep and enigmatic thinker. But Michael Kelly, the former head of security at Manchester United, has revealed in his book that the quotation had been assembled by a number of people including Cantona [and Kelly] in a London hotel room.

Martin Luther King day in Miami

January 19, 2011

Americans honor the birthdays of three of its citizens with holidays named after them. George Washington and Christopher Columbus were the first two recipients, Martin Luther King the third.

It’s a day off work for government employees, and for workers in some other sectors such as banks. In America the date is fixed on a Monday closest to the actual birthday. Martin Luther King day falls on the third Monday of January. The edict was eventually enacted by all 50 States, although there were some who reluctantly gave up celebrating a more local hero on the day.

Miami celebrated under grey clouds this monday [January 15th 2011]. A visitor to the city might not have appreciated its significance. Traffic downtown was light. But the near deserted finance sector could have signified any non-working day.

King, and the “I have a dream” speech

I remember Martin Luther King, from a time when I was working as a research assistant at a New York medical college. That was in the 1960s. The civil rights movement seemed to an outsider like me to be lead by more militant characters. It was typified by the cool supporters of the Black Power movement held out leaflets from the street corners of Manhattan. Sometimes I would take a pamphlet. The activists seemed more concerned with getting their message across to “brothers rather than others” who mostly hurried by, occupying a different space on the sidewalks.

The controversial figure of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was also rarely out of the headlines. Powell was a firely politician and pastor who represented Harlem, in the United States House of Representatives for a staggering period from 1945 until his removal in disgrace in 1971. Although I did not know it at the time, Powell strongly opposed Martin Luther King’s non-violence policies.

But it was King’s voice which won through, both in a literal and metaphoric sense. His speech has become one of the most praised of all time for the power of its delivery and its impact. It is said to have encouraged President Kennedy to put more weight behind the Civil rights campaign (JFK was rather more ambivalent about his direct involvement than was his brother Bobby.)


King Day events were reported rather modestly, and outside the news headlines. In Atlanta, the symbolic focus was at MLK’s Ebenezer Baptist church close by his birth place. The messages from political leaders and members of his family picked up on the continued need for non-violence and reconciliation. The recent slayings at Tucson were picked up as a theme.

This echoed a recent speech by President Obama which had also called for greater efforts toward reconciliation. The tragedy had triggered mourning and a political storm of accusations that rhetoric had inflamed the popular mood and precipitated acts of violence.

MBA School swims into view: A fishy tale from Miami

January 16, 2011

Maybe it was jet-lag. There was something very MBA-like about the fish in the aquarium displayed in the coffee shop of the Courtyard Marriot…

A cohort of brightly-coloured creatures, moving to some kind of plan. All different. All rather special and carefully-selected, no doubt. Perhaps put together because they get on well as a team (or do I mean a shoal, or a school?). Well looked after.

The Miami Business Aquarium

Then a larger fish swims into my view at the Miami Business Aquarium “That’s a director fish” I thought.

Susan finished a third capuccino

They are very soothing” she said.

I think she was referring to the fish not the coffee…

Note to non-fishy MBAs

While this post may suggest something interesting about the author’s mental maps, it is probably not suited for study if you have been asked to ‘write a blog post in the style of LWD’.

Salman Taseer: ‘A good man who did something.’

January 13, 2011

The Economist wrote an obituary for Governor Salman Taseer who was killed while in capitivity facing charges, Jan 4th 2011. They described Taseer as ‘a good man who did something.’ We contrast news from Western and regional perspectives.

Salmaan Taseer was Governor of Punjab. A former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) member, he was appointed to the post in 2008 by former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf.

The Telegraph

He was killed by Mumtaz Qadri, a member of Taseer’s security detail, someone described by The Telegraph as
a police officer known for his hard-line religious views.


Aljazeera reported that some religious scholars had issued a statement asking people not “to try to lead funeral prayers, express regrets or sympathies over his assassination”. Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister told the news agency that Qadri had admitted to carrying out the attack because of Taseer’s opposition to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

The Economist

The Economist [Jan 7th 2011] wrote as follows [the quote is edited from the on-line edition]. I find it strange that the newspaper lists factors ending (not beginning) with Mumtaz Qadri:

Mr Taseer, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party and a close ally of the president, Asif Ali Zardari, had been campaigning on behalf of Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian farm worker who in the course of a row with neighbours over drinking water was accused of blasphemy, convicted and sentenced to death. He had called for her to be pardoned, and also for the law, under which death for blasphemy against the prophet is mandatory, to be changed. His murderer, one of his bodyguards, said this was why the governor was killed.There are a few obvious culprits. First is the army. Zia ul Haq, who took power in a coup in 1977 (and who imprisoned Mr Taseer and had him tortured), introduced sharia law, set up many of the religious schools that have produced the [current] extremists and promoted fundamentalist officers. The politicians as a class, has given democracy such a bad name that mullahs who decry it get an enthusiastic hearing. Nawaz Sharif, twice prime minister, formerly chief minister of Punjab and whose brother now holds that post, has long numbered fundamentalists among his allies, and it was during his time in power that the mandatory death sentence was introduced. After the Ahmadi massacre in Punjab’s capital, Lahore, neither of the Sharifs visited the mosques to pay their respects to the community.

The Pakistan People’s Party must take its share of the blame, too. Its manifesto committed it to repealing discriminatory laws, and President Zardari made much of Ms Bibi’s case. But instead of granting a swift pardon he dithered until the case became a cause célèbre for fundamentalists. The government abandoned the only two politicians brave enough to pursue the matter—Mr Taseer and Sherry Rehman, an MP who had introduced a private member’s bill to amend the law—and said it would not change the legislation.

For evil to prevail, as the old saw goes, all that is required is for good men to do nothing. But Mr Taseer’s fate shows how high a price those who do something may have to pay. Brave people who are isolated are [then] easy to pick off. Pakistan’s political class [should] cling on to the values Jinnah predicted would make the place “one of the greatest countries in the world”. It is a phrase that rings with tragic irony today.

Dalglish takes over at Liverpool F.C., but why should his reputation be at risk?

January 9, 2011

“King” Kenny takes over at Liverpool after a decade outside football management. He is celebrated in football as one of the all time great players. He is revered inside the club for his service and loyalty. The bond with supporters was strengthened by his dignity and leadership during the period of the Heisel stadium disaster in 1985

Liverpool Football Club parted company with Roy Hodgson [8th January 2011] and announced that Dalglish has taken over as an interim manager. The overwhelming reaction (from fans) has been positive. The reaction outside the club has been more reserved, and coupled with a view that Hodgson was removed precipitously, albeit after a poor start to his brief time at Liverpool .

The club announcement read:

“We are delighted that Kenny Dalglish has agreed to step in and manage the team for Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Old Trafford and for the remainder of the season. Kenny was not just a legendary footballer, he was the third of our three most successful managers – three giants. We are extraordinarily fortunate and grateful that he has decided to step in during the middle of this season.”

One commentator suggested that the new owners had been influenced by evidence of widespread disenchantment to their manager in the local culture, in which Liverpool the city, and Liverpool the football club are strongly and closely connected.

Manchester United v Liverpool

He faces touch challenges, starting with his first game against bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford one day after his appointment. MUFC top the table, and if anything appear to be coming to a higher peak of performance. Liverpool have to improve or plunge further into mid table mediocrity. Without a change of manager, a win would have been considered unlikely.

Why should his enviable reputation be at risk?

It has been suggested that he risks his enviable reputation through taking on the challenge of the Managership. The issue was discussed this morning on Garry Richardson’s BBC 5 Live radio programme.

Noting the reactions to his appointment in and outside Liverpool, I am inclined towards the following view: It will take a great deal to shake his reputation inside the Liverpool culture. This is based both on both achievement (respect) and symbolic reverence that transcends forthcoming results. Outside the club, the achievements are less powerfully recalled, and the reverence even less so.

Special 1 TV, Roy Keane and Mid-Table Madness

January 8, 2011

As Special 1 TV turns its attention to Mid-Table Football Madness, Roy Keane is sacked by Ipswich

Those who believe in Sod’s law will have seen the signs of Roy’s sacking. A recent post in Leaders We Deserve sang his praises. To be fair, we tipped him maybe to rescue the Tractor Boys, but maybe to implode. As guest blogger Ken Scully wrote [November 2010]

Can the Tractor Boys steam ahead with Keane leading them? Of course they can, but don’t be surprised if the wheels fall off, with the blame falling on the Tractor driver.

Special 1 TV

While searching for news of Roy Keane’s demise, LWD came across fresh cartoon humour in The Special 1 TV [BBC 3]. Their recent 5 minute video clip deals with Mid-Table madness. This is an illness which besets football clubs languishing mid-table. It manifests as uncontrollable desire to sack the manager in search of a better one.

BP Oil-spill: Official report spreads blame

January 6, 2011

The offical report into the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreads the blame around BP, Transocean, bad management, and government regulatory laxness

Broad culpability was always likely. The offical report summarized today [January 6th 2011] leaves plenty of scope for years of legal wrangling.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was an avoidable disaster caused in part by a series of cost-cutting decisions made by BP and its partners, the White House oil commission said last night. In a preview of its final report, due next week, the national oil spill commission said systemic management failure at BP, Transocean, and Halliburton caused the blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, and warned that such a disaster would likely recur because of industry complacency. “Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money),”

See also the Leaders we deserve reports in the months following the oil-spill.