FIRST of all, readers, I feel I should apologise. I’m going to talk about football and, as Simon Kelner, the head of a PR agency and a former newspaper editor, pointed out in a column this week, we really need to talk about women talking about football.

Kelner was concerned, you see, that having female pundits talking about how successfully men kick a ball around a pitch, would compromise the quality of the coverage. The presence of a female footballer with more than 100 caps for England taking the seat of what could have been a man was what seemed to have irked him. Eni Aluko, who has a distinguished career and who is an “articulate, engaging person”, according to Kelner – which wasn’t patronising at all – has been taking part in television World Cup commentary, as has Alex Scott, another name from the national England women’s team.

This led Kelner to wasting everyone’s time by sitting down and pouring out some word vomit on why this was all just tokenistic liberal nonsense. As I sat on by bus journey home after work, I was more angry at having given this claptrap a couple of minutes worth of thought when I could have been looking up recipes and make-up tips on my phone.

But while I knew that I should probably feel a sense of inner feminist rage at the splurge of stereotypes Kelner had managed to cram into a short space, I couldn’t quite muster the energy for it.

For me, Kelner’s piece was just a slightly more sophisticated version of a view espoused by many anonymous social media accounts: that something as simple as having women on the telly to talk about the male domain of football is symbolic of some elaborate feminazi conspiracy to expel men from society and have them locked up in cages.

I used to get a lot more worked up about these things, until I realised what a waste of energy it was. I’ve been a football fan since I was a kid. I go to football matches as often as I can, and when I’m there I notice how many women are present and consider how monumental a change that is for a sport once completely dominated by men.

But there are no strange looks. There are no men irked or threatened by the presence of all these females. Nobody bats an eyelid when women are screaming at the ref with just as much passion as their fellow male supporters. Women enjoying football, playing football and talking about football is simply normal now. It wasn’t once upon a time, but times have changed.

And so I found it difficult to get worked up by a column that only seemed to serve the purpose of offering fuel to the feminazi conspiracy theory brigade. Female commentators at an event like the World Cup is notable now because it hasn’t been the norm, but that’ll soon change.

None of this is really symbolic of some huge turn in society. It’s a game of football, for crying out loud. As much as I love it, I’m still very aware that it’s a bunch of people kicking a ball around a park, aiming for a net. For Kelner, or others like him, to feel such a sting from women muscling in on the punditry doesn’t shed them in a great light.

In his column, Kelner said: “My only question – and I pose it nervously – is this: why did our major TV channels feel the need to have a female presence on their World Cup panels?”

Well, Simon, I have the answer: It’s because we like football. Get over it.


There was worrying news this week when it emerged that children from Eastern European backgrounds, and in particular children from Roma communities, have started hiding their nationalities in a bid to prevent bullying in Scottish schools.

Dr Daniela Sime, a lecturer in social policy from Strathclyde University, told the Scottish Parliament’s equalities and human rights committee that children would often refrain from using their home languages in schools or on public transport because they were fearful of being attacked.

I hope Scottish Conservatives MP Douglas Ross was paying attention. He caused the traveller community in Scotland great concern last year when he said that “tougher enforcement against Gypsy travellers” would be his number one priority if he was prime minister. His subsequent apology, that it was wrong to put that objective at number one, left a lot to be desired.

Words matter, and people of Ross’s stature have a deep responsibility to promote the values of inclusivity. The thought of children in Scotland trying to effectively make themselves invisible in order to avoid bullying and abuse should be enough to jolt some common sense into anyone who still holds on to backwards attitudes.

We may have no power or influence over Donald Trump’s immigration policies and the impact they are having on migrant children, but there’s no excuse for failing to tackle the problems on our own doorstep.