Graeme Souness has doubled down on his "man's game" comments amid an escalating sexism row, saying he does not regret "a word of it" despite uproar among England women's players.
The former Liverpool manager launched a staunch defence of his remarks on Sky Sports as he appeared on his TalkSport radio slot with Simon Jordan, who dismissed the furore as "cobblers".
Souness had prompted a backlash from the likes of Eniola Aluko and Bethany England after declaring that fiery scenes between Chelsea and Tottenham showed "it’s a man's game all of a sudden now".
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.
"I enjoyed two games of football yesterday where men were playing men, and they got about themselves at times. They were falling out with each other."
During his punditry the previous evening on Sky, Karen Carney, who was capped more than 100 times for England, appeared to raise an eyebrow as she sat alongside him as he made the remarks. Carney's former England team-mate Aluko then tweeted that his choice of words were "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
Bethany England, who plays for Chelsea and has won 19 caps for the Lionesses, also tweeted her dismay.
“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
Jordan, however, said on Monday that the reaction by England players was "an absolute load of nonsense". He said: "A man describing a game featuring men can't apparently use the word men or men in conjunction with a game that featured solely men? I mean, are we losing context here? Are we getting into a situation where we should be saying 'hanging on a second here - the Women's Super League, that's bias'. Are we getting into that territory because of that nature? It's ridiculous.
"Graeme made an observation about a game and made it in conjunction with what he's watching. And if someone wants to turn it into something more, they do a particular cause of equality an injustice. It's lightweight activism. I'm seeing England football players from the England women's team making a song out of this and I'm so disappointed by it because I think it's completely unnecessary.
"If you want to take anybody's conversation out of context, misrepresent it back and turn it into something that it wasn't, then that's for you to do, but it doesn't mean that people should be castigated. It doesn't mean that you need presenters on the show to say, 'Oh, it's a woman's game as well'. You don't need it. You really don't need it. I don't think Graeme's a dinosaur. I don't think he said anything misogynistic. I don't think there was anything wrong with what he said. I've got a 14 year old daughter. I want her to compete in the world. And I want it to be given the best opportunities. What a load of old cobblers."
However, in a statement issued via Sky Sports hours after his comments on TalkSport, Souness clarified that he was talking about the two Premier League matches rather than the game generally. "To clarify my comments from yesterday, I was referring to the two Premier League matches I watched live on Sunday afternoon rather than the sport of football," he said in the new statement. "Football is a game for everyone to enjoy".
Souness had made the "man's game" remark as he celebrated tempers boiling over during the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge. Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte both received red cards at the final whistle after a handshake erupted into an angry clash moments after Harry Kane's equaliser six minutes into stoppage time.
The emotional scenes prompted Souness to say in his post-match analysis: “Referees are letting a lot more go and it allows for a better watch. It’s a man's game all of a sudden now. I thoroughly enjoyed both games today."
Carney was sat alongside him, as he then added: "I think we've got our football back, as I would enjoy football. Men at it, blow for blow, and the referee letting them get on with it."
Women in Football chief executive Yvonne Harrison told Telegraph Sport that in the aftermath of England's triumph at the women's Euros "it's hard to imagine how Graeme Souness could have been more wrong". "Football isn't a man's game: it's everyone's game," she added.
Aluko also later told Telegraph Sport that Souness's opinions were "outdated". "Souness is an experienced pundit that I’ve enjoyed watching for years," she said. "His honesty and experience has provided us with great insight. However, I believe his comment of 'we have a man’s game back; was outdated for 2022 and not inclusive. It was so awkward that the experienced presenter Dave Jones had to defer to Karen Carney, who has 144 caps for England, playing the game too. There were alternative ways to make the same point about enjoying the physicality of the game without praising physicality in football to only be for men.”
Sky Sports has been contacted for comment.