Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness says he does not regret describing football as “a man’s game” after Chelsea’s fiery 2-2 draw with Tottenham.
His comments drew criticism from Chelsea striker and Euro 2022 winner Beth England and ex-England international Eniola Aluko.
Souness was analysing the physical nature of the game and referee Anthony Taylor’s approach.
“It’s a man’s game all of a sudden again,” Souness said on Sunday.
“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.”
Former Liverpool and Scotland midfielder Souness was sitting beside Karen Carney, who won 144 caps for England.
Presenter Dave Jones immediately added: “It’s also a woman’s game as well.”
It followed a dramatic London derby at Stamford Bridge which ended in an angry confrontation between managers Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte. Both were shown red cards after the final whistle.
Aluko responded to Souness’ remarks on social media, writing: “Awkward turtles, Graeme Souness talking about ‘it’s a man’s game again’ sat next to an England centurion Karen Carney, two weeks after the Lionesses end a 56-year wait and win European Championships. Come on. It’s not OK.”
England, who was in Sarina Wiegman’s Euros-winning squad, said: “What a disgraceful thing to say after the summer this country has just seen.”
Speaking to Talksport on Monday, 69-year-old Souness said he regretted “not a word” of what he said in Sunday’s broadcast.
“Let me explain,” he said. “I’ve been advocating for years that the referees have such a major part to play in the success of the Premier League.
“We’ve got to be careful what we say today and I’ve not been very good at that, but we were becoming like other leagues.
“The refs were 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, always been more meaty, more in our face, more intense and we’ve got away from that.
“Yesterday in my comments I said we’ve got our game back. That’s the kind of football I remember playing. Our league will be better for it – we are back.”
Later in a statement released through Sky, Souness said: “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.
“Football is a game for everyone to enjoy.”