Katy Sandalls: We should be celebrating female commentators at this World Cup

Alex Scott is part of the commentary team in Russia Picture BBC / JON SHARD / JON ENOCH / BR

Alex Scott is part of the commentary team in Russia Picture BBC / JON SHARD / JON ENOCH / BR - Credit: BBC / Jon Shard / Jon Enoch / Br

In her latest women’s football column, Katy Sandalls discusses the debate which has started around female commentators at the World Cup.

Jason Cundy sparked controversy with his comments

Jason Cundy sparked controversy with his comments

Despite the lack of women’s football this summer it seems the topic of women and football remains high on the news agenda.

Unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons as the debate raged about whether a woman’s place is in the commentary box.

It was a former Ipswich Town player, Jason Cundy, at the heart of it all. Cundy said that he disliked the idea of female commentators because of their high-pitched voices.

The involvement of former England internationals Alex Scott and Eni Aluko in World Cup coverage has also helped to bring this debate to the forefront.

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Although not commentating directly, the pair have been providing analysis for the BBC and ITV respectively.

It was eye-opening watching Twitter mentions come up for the topic of women’s football in the aftermath of the debate.

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Many agreed with Cundy, including a large number of women. It was quite disappointing to see so many people smack down the idea completely rather than consider the idea in a more nuanced way.

If there’s a particular commentator that you don’t agree with or don’t enjoy listening to then that’s fair enough – everyone has one.

They may have a style you dislike or just bore you completely with their ‘analysis’ but to disagree with the entire concept of having women in commentating roles seems unfair and narrow-minded.

Many suggested that women should commentate on women’s games only and leave men to the men’s football.

This segregation seems a bit nonsensical especially given that the women’s World Cup is just around the corner and is certain to feature a number of male and female commentators working together, as was the case at the 2017 Women’s Euros with Aluko one of the voices in that lineup.

The question here should really be about experience – does the woman have enough to give insight and, when we’ve experienced more women in the game, will our opinions change?

One of my biggest problems with the whole debate was that we don’t really hear that many female commentators or analysts in any kind of football.

Historically it has been a male profession and many of those giving their opinion will most likely have heard a woman commentating once or twice at best.

Not enough time to give a thorough appraisal of the topic, but I digress.

We have to acknowledge that like every other job commentating is changing.

What we should be celebrating is what female commentators have achieved. Recently the BBC’s Vicki Sparks became the first female commentator for a live World Cup game in the UK, a fantastic achievement.

A great step forward but one that should have come sooner – these commentators and analysts have much to offer both the women’s and men’s games, they have knowledge, passion, drive.

And, in the case of Scott and Aluko, experience of coming third in a World Cup – a result that many of their male colleagues could not have dreamed of in their prime.

To those who say it’s a different game, you’re right – but the fundamentals remain the same.

These commentators know what a good pass is, they can spot a handball, they can tell where a team need to improve or where they are going right.

You don’t need to be a man to know that.

Rather than what Cundy initially suggested, we should have more female commentators: more opportunities and more voices will make them just another part of the football-watching experience.

You’ll love some of their styles, others won’t be your cup of tea but you’ll forget that women didn’t always commentate and their gender will become less important.

Meanwhile, shout-outs this month go to the East Bergholt Ladies team who have had an incredible season winning the Suffolk women’s league as well as the league cup. A fantastic double ladies, and unbeaten as well!

Another shout-out goes to Beccles Town FC Ladies who are looking for a goalkeeper to join their squad as their current goalie is off to university.

Get in touch with them if you think you can help fill that squad.

If you need help finding new players or have a success story to share from your squad then get in touch via e-mail at katy.sandalls@archant.co.uk or on Twitter @katysandalls.

Until next month, enjoy the World Cup and let’s get ready for next season!

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