WHEN Jacqui Oatley became the first woman to commentate on Match of the Day, the criticism levelled at her was brutal.

Her debut on the BBC’s flagship football programme was met by comments that she was “truly horrendous”, “dire” and “like noise at a kids’ party”.

A tabloid newspaper headlined a story about her appearance “From Motty to Totty”, implying she had only been given the opportunity because of her looks.

The BBC faced calls to stand her down immediately and their online comments section was flooded with complaints about her.

It would be easy to assume such anachronistic views were from decades ago, but in fact, it was less than 14 years ago that Oatley made her debut.

Since then, she has opened doors for a number of women to follow in her footsteps.

In 2014, Eni Aluko became Match of the Day’s first female pundit; in 2018 Vicky Sparks became the first woman to commentate on a World Cup match on British television and in the same year, Alex Scott became the first woman football pundit on Sky Sports.

These three women quickly became accustomed to the same criticism Oatley experienced in 2007, with Sparks and Scott in particular the victims of  horrendous online trolling.

“Who’s this chick on BBC commentary? What the hell is this?” was one comment directed towards Sparks on her debut.

“This has to be some of the worst commentary ever. Just because she’s a woman doesn’t qualify her to be a commentator at the World Cup!” was another.

Scott revealed early in her commentary career that she received online abuse “every single day”.

The latest victim of the online trolls is former England internationalist Karen Carney. Her name has been trending on Twitter twice in the past week, mostly due to the barrage of abuse she was subjected to because of her commentary on the BBC and BT Sport.

Whether someone is a good commentator or pundit is, of course, subjective. No commentator will be universally loved, nor is there a pundit whose views everyone will agree with.

But there is a common thread when it comes to the comments directed at these women who have broken into men’s football; the abuse directed at them is more than just constructive criticism from disgruntled viewers, it invariably has a sexist element to it.

Each of these women has been accused of only being where they are because they are female and they have been employed to tick a box when it comes to diversity. 

This is hugely insulting, and shows the pervasive sexism that assumes women cannot be valuable contributors when it comes to opining on men’s football.

In recent months, Scott in particular has become one of the most lauded pundits in British football.

Yes, she has certainly improved since her television debut, but what is also certain is the knee-jerk sexism that was thrown her way initially overshadowed the fact she is a player with a wealth of club and international experience and is someone who prepares meticulously for every one of her appearances. 

Now she is being evaluated as a pundit more than a female, most can see her for what she is; an excellent addition to the football media.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion on commentators and pundits, and by no means is every bit of criticism levelled at a female football contributor necessarily fuelled by sexism.

But what is certain is that being a female within men’s football leaves you open to a level of abuse that men never experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could reach a stage when female football commentators and pundits are evaluated for nothing more than their performance?

Maybe one day we will get there.


WHEN Lee McGregor takes to the ring with Karim Guerfi on Saturday to fight for the European bantamweight title, he will be even more keen  than usual to throw his first punch.

The Scot was initially due to fight Guerfi in November, but that was cancelled due to McGregor’s positive test for coronavirus. A second date, two weeks ago, was then cancelled after boxing was called-off for the month at the start of January. And so McGregor will be hoping to finally get his chance in Dubai next weekend.

The 24-year-old is aiming to become one of the youngest British fighters to get his hands on British, Commonwealth and European titles and if he manages it, he will have accomplished it in just 10 professional fights.

Josh Taylor is the stand-out boxer in this country but McGregor, who is the world champion’s close friend and frequent training partner, is never shy in declaring he wants to follow in Taylor’s footsteps.

McGregor is still young but has been forced to grow up fast having lost his mum to cancer when barely out of his teens, and he now has a two-year-old daughter to provide for.

There are few sports as ferocious as boxing but McGregor is as tough as they come. He is confident he will add the European title to his collection, which he hopes will  be a stepping stone to a world title.

I wouldn’t bet against him.