TV Channel Slammed for Cutting Away From Female Ref's Legs in Soccer Game

Soccer fans were shocked when during a weekend game state television broadcasters allegedly "censored" the program by cutting away every time the female referee's bare legs were caught on camera.

Iranian viewers of Sunday's London match reported that when assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis appeared on screen, the state-owned outlets cut away. According to The Times of Israel, aerial footage of the stadium and shots of the ground replaced scenes between the Tottenham and Manchester United game where her legs were visible.

The outlet also noted that a game commentator allegedly said "he hoped the viewers enjoyed the geographic show."

Twitter users were quick to point out that Massey-Ellis was wearing a pair of long shorts and high socks, so that only her knees and a bit of her legs were showing. One user Sean Cardovillis claimed the "state TV channel cut away from live coverage ... more than A HUNDRED times" during the broadcast.

Iranian state TV channel cut away from live coverage of Tottenham versus Manchester United more than A HUNDRED times 'to avoid showing the bare legs of the female assistant referee'.#PL #seanknows

— Sean Cardovillis (@sean_cardo) April 14, 2021

Iranian women's civil rights group My Stealthy Freedom slammed the state's decision to cut away from the game. "Shocking though it seems, Islamic Republic leaders do not allow a woman with her hair uncovered and her bare knees to be shown on the state-owned TV," their official statement read.

"The television censors were rattled by the presence of a female referee in shorts," My Stealthy Freedom wrote. They added that they thought the state TV actions "made a mockery of the game."

According to The Times of Israel, Iran's capital Teheran abides by strict censorship laws, which censors or outright bans any media "deemed immoral or offensive ... [or is] hostile to Islamic values." As a result, many programs cannot show a woman's hair or legs.

"Censorship is in the DNA of the Islamic Republic of Iran," My Stealthy Freedom wrote. "We should not normalize this practice. This is not our culture. This is the ideology of a repressive regime."

Massey-Ellis has not yet released a comment on the situation. However, in 2011 she was also the target of sexist comments made by a male commentary team on a game she was an assistant referee at.

International soccer games have recently been under higher media scrutiny. In February, a news reporter in Ecuador was robbed at gunpoint on live TV outside a soccer stadium.

Soccer game
Soccer fans were shocked when a state broadcast continuously cut away from the female ref's legs throughout the game. Visionhaus/Getty Images