Football

Jason Cundy Isn’t Alone: Sexism is Rife in Sport

Ex-Chelsea footballer Jason Cundy recently took to Good Morning Britain to bemoan female football commentators. Cundy argued that women shouldn’t be allowed to commentate at the World Cup and said, “I prefer to listen to a male voice”. He then followed up his ridiculous argument, if you can call it that, by criticising female commentators for having voices that are “too high-pitched”.

Cundy was presumably reacting to the selection of Vicki Sparks, the first woman to lead live coverage of a World Cup game, last week. The same Vicki Sparks, that, last year, David Moyes said “might still get a slap, even though you’re a woman”.

In a rare turn of events, I found myself agreeing with Piers Morgan, who, in return, remarked that Cundy’s views made him a “sexist pig”. In reply, Jason tried to suggest it has nothing to do with how well the women know the game or her ability, just her voice. He commented: “For 90 minutes, I would prefer to listen to a male voice”.

Double standards

Presumably, if high-pitched voices are the issue, he’d turn the TV off when Gary Neville gets particularly animated? Or does he get a free pass, because he’s a man? Cundy himself has a rather pitchy voice – and when GMB compared the vocal ranges of Sparks and Cundy, they found them to be in a similar range.

More to the point, he’s stereotyping women as all having shrill, squeaky voices, when plenty don’t. I wonder if his bitterness towards female commentators is down to the fact he’s not well-known enough to secure a slot on mainstream TV?

His ex-wife Lizzie Cundy, who has previously covered the World Cup for GMTV, takes a very different stance. In the past, she said, “I think women are just as capable and as good as any man to talk about football. We are no longer in the 70s and it’s time for the football world to move on and get rid of these dinosaur views”. And she’s right. Being denied a job based on gender would be an outrage in almost any other profession, but why is it somehow okay when it’s football? This seems a very strange hill to die on for Jason Cundy.

It’s the 21st century

When I was growing up, I’d have loved to see female footballers in the limelight. Many young women who opt to play football, which is still viewed as a sport “for boys”, get teased and labelled for pursuing their passion. Girls who play football are often seen as “tomboys”, less feminine, or in extreme cases, labelled “butch”, all because they dare to involve themselves within a sport that has, for decades, been off limits. These girls deserve the opportunity to see role models that resonate with them on their screens.

Yes, you can worship male footballers, but arguably, it’s even more inspirational to see a female (which are drastically under-represented) come up through the ranks and earn their place in sports broadcasting. It sends a message to young girls, that their love of the game is just as valid and important as those of their male peers. Women and girls have fought for decades to get recognition for their love of the game. And there’s still a long way to go.

Fragile masculinity

For me, the issue boils down to misogyny and sexism. Men with fragile egos can’t stand the fact that a woman is “invading” their little bubble, and may go on to actually know more than them. Football is “theirs”, and, it seems, a female interest threatens that.

The style and tone of each commentator or pundit varies, and so it is down to preference. However, to try and say a whole gender shouldn’t be allowed to take part is just plain ridiculous and discriminatory. I know more about football than many of my male peers. Most aren’t bothered by this and will have a debate with me. Others don’t take it well and see it as demeaning that a woman has shown they’ve more knowledge than them. But the idea of women being less able, not just in football but in sports overall, is engrained in young boys from the get-go. As a child, I lost count of the number of times I played football with lads, dispossessed them of the ball, and as a result, their peers mocked them for being out-played by a girl. As if being second best to a female is the most humiliating thing in the world.

Football is for everyone

Jason Cundy has since come under fire on social media and, thus, has tweeted a “sincere” apology for any offence caused, claiming to have realised how “foolish” and “out of order” his remarks were. Sorry doesn’t cut it, especially as I doubt he has reconsidered his stance– at this stage, it’s probably just damage limitation for him.

Football is often lauded as a universal game, meant for everyone to enjoy – regardless of sexual orientation, gender, age, ability and ethnicity. But it’s a shame that so many people still hold these archaic, sexist and discriminatory views. A brief scroll through social media will tell you Cundy isn’t alone. That concerns me. Some of these people may well have young daughters who wish to play football but can’t because of their parents’ views.

It’s 2018, not 1918; women have just as much right to commentate as men.

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