Using lines like “a man’s game” and “boys will be boys” on air in 2022 is going to draw criticism in its own right, but the particular context Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness deployed those lines in Sunday attracted even more fire. While weighing in on a Chelsea-Tottenham Premier League draw that featured plenty of fiery clashes, Souness (seen second from left above) threw out those lines despite sitting next to Karen Carney, a fellow analyst, English Football Hall of Fame inductee, and former England women’s star.
Souness saying “it’s a man’s game” next to Karen Carney?? pic.twitter.com/R4bevjJ3B5
— mx (@MessiMX30iiii) August 14, 2022
Here’s a transcription of the key part of what Souness says in that clip:
“Referees are letting a lot more go, and it makes for a better watch. We’ve all played the game, with simulation and people throwing themselves to the ground. I’ve not seen that in the two games today. It’s a man’s game all of a sudden again.”
As per Barnaby Lane of Insider, Souness went on to describe the repeated physical clashes between managers Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel during this match as “men at it,” and said “boys will be boys.” And this led to lots of criticism for him. Some of that came from current Lionesses’ striker Bethany England, who helped lead that English women’s team to their first-ever Euro title last month. She pushed back on Twitter with “Get in the trash”:
“It’s a man’s game”
“Men at it”
Get in the ? what a disgraceful thing to say after the summer this country has just seen.
— Bethany England (@Bethany_Eng15) August 14, 2022
Former English national player Eniola Aluko also had criticism, saying “It’s not okay”:
Awkward turtles, Graeme Souness talking about “it’s a man’s game again” sat next to an England centurion Karen Carney, two weeks after @Lionesses end a 56 year wait and win European Championships.
Come on. It’s not okay.
— Eniola Aluko (@EniAlu) August 14, 2022
But, as Tom Morgan writes in The Telegraph, Souness then doubled down on his comments Monday on his regular TalkSport Radio slot with Simon Jordan:
When asked on Monday morning whether he regretted making the comment, Souness, who now has a regular slot on the White and Jordan show, said: “Not a word of it”.
He added: “I’ve been saying for years, the referees have such a major part to play in the success of the Premier League because…we were fast becoming like other leagues where the ref was blowing the whistle all the time, the game didn’t flow, and it just wasn’t a very good watch.”
“Our game has always been unique. It’s always been more meaty, more in your face, more intense, and we’ve got away from that. And I think yesterday…I said ‘we’ve got our game back’. You know that is the kind of football I remember playing and our league will be better for it. We are back and the directive to the referees is long overdue. We’ve got our game back.
Here’s audio of that:
“I said we had our game back, it’s the kind of football I remember playing in.”
“It was a throwback and I think our game will be better for it.”
Graeme Souness addresses his ‘man’s game’ comments on yesterday’s action. pic.twitter.com/hEMMB0tGOL
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) August 15, 2022
Souness, 69, had a successful playing career from 1970-91 with several clubs (including Middlesbrough, Liverpool, and Rangers) and the Scottish national team. He also found success as a manager from 1986 (starting as a player-manager at Rangers) through 2006, and has been working as an analyst since then.
If Souness had simply argued in favor of more physical play and less whistles, which he’s done many times over the years, he wouldn’t have sparked nearly the amount of controversy he did here. But he chose to bring gender into it, and that led to his remarks getting much more attention. He may not regret “a word of it,” but there are certainly many displeased with his approach.