Pundit Power

10 June 2019 | Aaron Wise
Here’s a meaty topic for a Monday; gender equality.

We’ve come on leaps and bounds in recent years in promoting and encouraging gender equality across the board, but there’s still a long way to go.

Female participation in sport, in particular, has enjoyed a surge in media coverage and mass exposure, which is great to see.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup is now in full swing and is looking to take the game to the next level following a successful event in Canada four years ago, which was applauded for its high-profile coverage and saw more than 50,000 fans attend the final and 25 million tune in.

The BBC is covering all of this summer’s games in some capacity, with at least one game being broadcast live each day on BBC One, Two, Four or Alba, as well as via the red button and iPlayer.

Last night’s game between England and Scotland was the UK’s most watched women's football match of all time, drawing a peak of 6.1 million viewers – that’s impressive.

The game featured an all-female punditry panel of host Gabby Logan, former Lionesses defender Alex Scott, ex-USA goalkeeper Hope Solo, and Scotland’s most-capped player Gemma Fay.

I actually watched the game and thought nothing of the coverage until I saw Rebekah Vardy’s tweet questioning why the BBC had chosen an all-female panel.

Jamie Vardy’s other half’s “Umm what has happened to equality…’ post caused quite the stir, with more than 30,000 people engaging with her controversial comment.

Her argument, which she claims is ‘pro-women’, is that male pundits should have joined the panel to 1) Provide a level of gender equality and 2) Highlight how ‘big’ of a game it was by including prominent pundits from the men’s game.

Unsurprisingly, she received a lot of backlash. Mainly in part due to the BBC actually having two male pundits over in France for the World Cup; Dion Dublin and Jonathan Pearce, but also because the majority of punditry in the men’s game last season was heavily dominated by males.

Rebekah was also lambasted for suggesting a male presence would enhance the importance of the game, despite three of the four women being ex-professionals.

It’s an interesting one to judge from a PR perspective. Does gender equality mean having a mixture of both men and women covering games from both sexes? Probably. But in reality, and where we are at this moment in time, the women’s game should have expert analysis provided by those who know it best; the women themselves. I think the BBC’s stance and choice in punditry line-up is spot on and should be praised, along with their coverage on the competition thus far.

As for Rebekah, it might have been intended as an innocent tweet trying to promote gender equality, but it was poorly judged and has rightly been criticised for its context.

Women or men, as long as fans are turning up and tuning into this summer’s games, women’s football has won. Come on you Lionesses!