MAY 4, 2023: Sometimes, the male species lets itself down. That will come as no surprise to most people, but some of the ongoing debates about women being allowed on the commentators gantry really do take us back a decade in the evolution of man. “They make my ears bleed… I just want to bury my head in a cushion… they should stick to their role at the sink.” These are just some of the comments I have read recently. It makes you cringe, especially as the quality of male pundits has been awful for years.
We all know that most footballers have not had a decent education, largely because they have focused on very little else other than football, but the lack of vocabulary and pronounciation is really quite bad. Poor old Alex Scott was lambasted for her accent, but it was/is far better than people like Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand, whose popularity seems to be growing for some strange reason.
Football is a game of cliché and jargon and the female pundits and managers (such as Emma Hayes) have quickly adopted the style of the men’s game. Perhaps they feel this is what the audience wants to hear, but actually, it is not. We want football punditry to be intelligent, considered and with a genuine opinion – if TV has to have former players in their studio, let’s have proper opinions, not a mix of fence-sitting and false bonhomie. Keane and Souness were worth their salt, but some of the others are merely filling seats. Which makes criticism of women absolutely ridiculous, because the likes of Scott are far better than some of the crusty, one-dimensional old pros. There are some who offer little beyond the lexicon of the terrace, but others, such as Karen Carney, are every bit as good as any male pundit..
Football is not necessarily a man’s game – gone are the days of macho centre halves with bloodied bandages and fist-clenched motivators. Footballers are fragile animals these days, emotional and sensitive and always looking for help from above. This is not the sport of lumbering full backs that epitomised the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, it’s a technical profession with powerpoint presentations, drink breaks and five subs. It is still a game for the people, but they are male and female. In the past it was the “game of the working man”, now it really is for the people. All people. Even in the TV studio. Get used to it.
Neil Fredrik Jensen