WATCHING England rugby coach Eddie Jones furiously back pedal after his comments about Emma Raducanu was quite something last week.

As is his wont, Jones shot his mouth off about Raducanu but quickly realised he was out of his depth, rapidly, but still too late, engaging reverse gear.

It seemed surprising that Raducanu was brought up at all during an England rugby press conference following their victory over Tonga last weekend.

In talking about fledgling English talent Marcus Smith, Jones decided the best way to illustrate his point about young athletes being distracted from their craft was to talk about Raducanu and her being overburdened by “commercial distractions” in the aftermath of her US Open victory.

Following that historic and remarkable win, the teenager has graced the red carpet of the Met Gala Ball, the front cover of magazines as well as becoming an ambassador for jewellery company Tiffany’s and Co.

Jones commented that he didn’t want Smith, who has been touted as the next big thing in English rugby, to be distracted as he has concluded has happened to Raducanu in the past two months.

“There’s a reason why the young girl who won the US Open hasn’t done so well afterwards,” Jones said. “What have you seen her on – the front page of Vogue and Harper Bazaar or whatever it is, wearing Christian Dior clothes. All that is a distraction around her.

“It might not be to that degree with Marcus, but potentially it could be. He is grounded, but they all start out grounded. But there are a flood of distractions which can make them ungrounded.”

Raducanu may not have hit the heights of repeating her US Open triumph in the weeks since but her results – winning two and losing two matches – are far from a crisis as she attempts to acclimatise to her new-found status as a superstar.

Jones, it seems, has a perpetual chip on his shoulder. Some of his snippy, snarky comments can be vaguely amusing; all too often though, they are boring and tiresome.

His take on Raducanu, though, had another layer on top of his usual tediousness, with more than a touch of sexism running through it.

First, Smith has not come close to the success of Raducanu. An impressive, but nevertheless fleeting, appearance against Tonga is not in the same league as winning a tennis Grand Slam. For Jones to suggest the pair are in a comparable position is insulting to Raducanu and does few favours to Smith.

And second, to identify Raducanu not by her name, but merely by calling her that “young lady” is patronising and, unfortunately, all too familiar for female athletes as they rise through the ranks.

Olympic hockey gold medallist, Kate Richardson-Walsh labelled Jones’ words as “misogynistic” and “misinformed”, saying: “Those comments are based on sexism and misogyny and I think that’s at the core of it,” while countless others, including Judy Murray and Gabby Logan, denounced Jones.

Raducanu is not the first female athlete to have middle-aged men deem they know best about what they should do outside the sporting arena. The Williams sisters, who have both long had extensive and wide-ranging interests outwith the tennis court, primarily in the fashion world, have continuously been told to “focus on tennis”.

In his backpedaling, Jones said he was taken out of context and he would be “disappointed if Emma was upset by it”, before adding, “it was deemed as being sexist and that was never the aim of the point”. He has invited her to Twickenham for England’s Autumn tests which, it is reported, the teenager is set to decline.

For all the progress that has been made regarding equality in the sporting world, there remains a tendency for anything female athletes to do outside of their tiny sporting bubble to be called a distraction.

Yes, Raducanu has enjoyed the aftermath of her win in New York, but why shouldn’t she? If she is still doing all of this in five years, all the while failing to compete with the best, then there is perhaps a place for outsiders to wonder about her commitment.

Already, Raducanu has stated she will not miss a single training session in favour of commercial commitments. 

So, perhaps the best thing for Jones and his like to do is to worry about themselves and leave teenage girls to decide the best way to navigate their own careers.


There is, quite rightly, much commentary about the continued disappointing statistics when it comes to the number of women and girls who take part in sport and physical activity.

However, last weekend’s Scottish Cross-Country Championships proved that against the odds, significant progress can be made.

In Lanark last weekend, 220 women crossed the finishing line, up from 24 in 1999. The increase is quite remarkable and testament to the time and effort put in by Scottish Athletics to grow the grassroots of the sport.

That the 220 women have the chance to race alongside Olympic silver medallist Laura Muir is one of the beauties of athletics. It is something few sports can offer and surely helps the numbers.

But the secret of Scottish Athletics’ success has little to do with this and much more to do with the welcoming and inclusive environment they have nurtured.

It is an approach many sports across Scotland would do well to  replicate.