"Hopefully in four years it won’t even be a topic of discussion, it will actually be the norm" - Alex Scott MBE

11 June 2018

"Hopefully in four years it won’t even be a topic of discussion, it will actually be the norm" - Alex Scott MBE

Jacqui Oatley MBE and Alex Scott MBE - fascinating interview on BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme

World Cup begins on Thursday - and there will be one very significant difference right from the start as BBC's Vicki Sparks becomes the first woman to commentate on a World Cup game for British TV.

Jacqui Oatley MBE, Alex Scott MBE, Gabby Logan, Eni Aluko, Kelly Cates and Lou Bawden are just some of the women who will be working for the media when the tournament kicks-off in Russia.

Two of them, Jacqui and Alex, took time out from their final preparations to speak to BBC Radio 4's Today programme about their experiences working in and playing football, plus thoughts on how well Gareth Southgate's squad will do.

Jacqui, who was the first female to report on Match of the Day, said: “It was in April 2007, so over 11 years ago now. It was a strange experience at the time because for me, from my perspective, I was a trained journalist, a mad passionate football player and supporter for many years, who had worked my way up from non-league football,  hospital radio etc and was regularly commentating on Premier League on the radio. I was given a one-off opportunity on Match of the Day and unfortunately once it became public knowledge, it felt like the world went mad. It seemed like a really big deal, being on the front page of the newspapers. To me it was just a one-off game, 11 minutes of Fulham v Blackburn at quarter to midnight!

"It seemed the public weren’t particularly ready for it at that time but I think that in those 11 years since, we really have moved on a great deal.

"It has become more inclusive. For many years we were just used to seeing and hearing men talk about men’s football, whereas now, thanks to people such as Alex, women talking about football has become a lot more normal.

"That’s where I had the issues 11 years ago, people just weren't used to it. Now it’s becoming normalised; we have female pundits and people are there on merit because they know about football, they’ve been brought up with it. I think it does send out a message to the people watching that ‘you are included too' if you want to watch a World Cup, it’s not just a male domain."

When asked about the growing popularity of the women's game and increasing number of females working in football, Alex said: “The success of Team GB at the Olympics when we held it over here, the World Cup in Canada - it has really raised the profile of women’s football, which has now helped me make the transition into the media side.

"It is people like Jacqui, what she did 11 years ago, that has paved the way for the next generation of us coming through. It is more accepted because Jacqui was knocking on doors, pushing barriers and boundaries, and that has helped us."

Having made the transition from playing on the pitch to pitchside pundit with ease, Alex admitted that she does feel an extra responsibility for aspiring young girls too.

“I’ve been in World Cups so I know the emotions, the feelings, but then I also know that I have the responsibility that there are young girls watching at home," she added. "I think it is great that they can turn on the TV and see me sitting alongside the rest of the pundits, like it is normal. Hopefully in four years, fast forward to the next World Cup, it won’t even be a topic of discussion, it will actually be the norm.”

Jacqui shared those sentiments,adding: "There is so much talent out there both in terms of playing football and broadcasters, young girls who know so much about football because they are brought up with it now, which they weren’t so much in my day. It is just so much more inclusive. Why would you cut off half of the population from feeling as though they belong? They deserve a voice in football. It just shouldn’t be a case of 'that’s a female pundit, I can’t believe it'.

"We did have Eni Aluko on the Euros two years ago and there wasn’t a backlash then, and it wasn’t really a big deal. Eni will be on ITV again this time, and she like Alex, has so many years of competing in major tournaments  and experience and it is just normal now, people are accepting.

"Of course you are going to get some people saying 'Oh there’s a woman there and she’s only there because she’s a female', but they’re not really looking at the bigger picture and what these people have done in their career to deserve a place on that sofa."

On the tournament itself, over to Alex, herself a veteran of three World Cup and four UEFA Championship campaigns.

Looking ahead to England's chances in Russia, she said: "I think from what we have seen in the warm-up games and how Gareth and the team are applying themselves, there is hope and optimism that this team is fresh, it’s exciting.

"I think that as long as they go over there and show the qualities that they have been showing they will come back and the nation will be proud of them."

You can listen to the show in full on BBC iPlayer here from 1:42.00 in.

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