When Saturday afternoon finally arrives I love nothing more than sitting down in front of ‘Soccer Saturday’, loading up Twitter, and settling in to follow all the action of the 3pm kick offs. Granted, there may be one or two pundits who aren’t favourites of mine due to their bashing of my beloved club, but I would never disregard their opinions just because they’re male.
Last weekend The Sheffield Star printed a letter from one of their readers- Ken Tomlinson- berating the BBC’s ‘Final Score’ for having the audacity to employ women to commentate on the various matches being played, “on some occasions as many as six women reporters”. Scandalous. He claimed that it “irritates” him to listen to them, “they don’t sound right” and “Put a woman behind the microphone and it’s killed it stone dead”. In this day and age equal rights are a huge topic of discussion in the media, yet some people still hold archaic views such as football being solely for men.
As a young woman who aspires to a career in sports media, I find the comments Mr Tomlinson makes about female reporters both saddening and motivating in equal measures. Upon my initial reading his words were disheartening; I wouldn’t want to detract from someone else’s joy at following the sport I know brings so much to me every week, but when I read it back it struck me that this is exactly what he was doing by publicly airing his opinion. On the other hand, his ignorance can be turned into fuel to prove him and likeminded people wrong: I am as good and as passionate as any male counterpart.
He later claimed “It’s easy to call me sexist, my letter was not intended to be so, and nor am I sexist but it’s a man’s game and boys will be boys and girls will be girls.” Whatever rationalisation he tries, there’s no denying that his views are outdated and not shared by the majority of football fans as week in, week out thousands of people watch on unfazed. To me these women are inspiring- seeing the likes of Gabby Logan, Kate Abdo, Jacqui Oatley, Lynsey Hipgrave etc all representing the female contingent of sports fans- and absolutely smashing it- gives me confidence.
If Mr Tomlinson stands to reason that women should stick to ‘their own sports’, then does he believe that men shouldn’t support female athletes? Did he take no joy in the triumphs of Kelly Holmes? Did he ignore Rebecca Adlington? Jessica Ennis? Nicola Adams? Paula Radcliffe? Serena Williams? Should Colin Jackson not comment on women’s athletics? Mark Foster on women’s swimming? Hopefully one day people like Ken will join the rest of society and realise that women have as much of a right to work in sports broadcasting as any man- and some might even be better!