​Women take on football’s ‘sexist pigs’ in the battle for World Cup screen time

Vicki Sparks commentating during the Morocco and Portugal game. (BBC)

Vicki Sparks commentating during the Morocco and Portugal game. (BBC)

Women in the United Kingdom’s football industry have hit back at critics of Vicki Sparks — the BBC’s first female World Cup commentator.

Sparks led coverage of the World Cup clash between Morocco and Portugal from Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium for BBC One last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, ex-England captain John Terry — who infamously had an affair with his teammate’s girlfriend in 2010 and, in 2011, called Anton Ferdinand a “fucking black cunt” during a match between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers — posted a video on his Instagram story saying that he was “having to watch this game with no volume”.

Social media slammed Terry’s comments for being sexist, though the footballer explained the following day that he was misunderstood.

But the outcry over female commentators did not stop there and on Monday former footballer Jason Cundy complained on morning television that women’s voices are “too high pitched” for match commentary.

Cundy, who once played for Chelsea, Tottenham and Ipswich, but won no major honours during his professional career, said he found Spark’s coverage a “tough listen”, in an appearance on Good Morning Britain.

The show’s host, Piers Morgan, called Cundy a “sexist pig” and sports presenter Jacqui Oatley and Chelsea star Fran Kirby also hit back at an antiquated attitude towards women in sport.

Oatley, the first female commentator on Match of the Day and a presenter for ITV in Russia this year, called out “dinosaur dissenters” on Twitter.

“I’ve been trying to stay out of this as I just want the likes of Vicki Sparks and Robyn Cowen to be able to crack on doing a fine job without adding to the scrutiny (which affected my confidence for a while). Still feel we’ve made progress. Dinosaur dissenters are in the minority,” she wrote.

I’ve been trying to stay out of this as I just want the likes of @vksparks and @robyniocowen to be able to crack on doing a fine job without adding to the scrutiny (which affected my confidence for a while).
Still feel we’ve made progress. Dinosaur dissenters are in the minority. https://t.co/SBaz4TjVwh

— Jacqui Oatley (@JacquiOatley) June 25, 2018

Kirby, who has been called England’s “mini Messi” and was recently crowned the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Women’s Player of the Year after an emphatic season at Chelsea, also condemned Cundy’s comments.Responding to Oatley’s tweet, she said: “How about we just go back to the dinosaur ages to 1921 and ban women’s football? Because clearly some people haven’t evolved since then and still stuck in that time period.”There is a strong female presence across British coverage of the World Cup this year. Oatley is presenting for ITV, while England and Juventus player Eniola Aluko is a studio pundit.

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit both subs and writes for the Mail & Guardian. She joined the M&G after completing her master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Cape Town. She is interested in the literature of the contemporary black diaspora and its intersection with queer aesthetics of solidarity. Her recent work considers the connections between South African literary history and literature from the rest of the Continent. Read more from Sarah Smit

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