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Speaking up Broadcaster Jacqui Oatley says women who voice their opinion on football often get vile abuse

"When a woman has an opinion on a football match and expresses that on TV or radio, it can spark vile abuse purely based on their gender on social media"

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Jacqui Oatley is a top football pundit.

Jacqui Oatley is a top football pundit.

Jacqui Oatley is a top football pundit.

She has broken down barriers for women in football for the last two decades, yet commentator Jacqui Oatley admits the negativity around a female presence in the game may be impossible to erase.

The British broadcaster made history when she became the first female commentator on BBC's Match of the Day in 2007.

Speaking exclusively to Magazine+, she admits: "There is still a large percentage of people out there who think football is a game for men and that we don't need women involved.

"When a woman has an opinion on a football match and expresses that on TV or radio, it can spark vile abuse purely based on their gender on social media.

"So you need to have a thick skin as a woman working in football. You can't say it doesn't affect you because we are all human at the end of the day, but it is hard to stop people from posting vile comments.

"While we can mute and block people who send them, it's important to see the bigger picture when these issues blow up."

The FAI announced last month that the Republic of Ireland men's and women's national teams will receive equal pay when they play on the international stage, yet the battle for equality in football continues on and off the pitch.

Former England international Karen Carney faced a backlash after her opinions on Leeds United's men's team were challenged on the club's official Twitter feed last year, with a predictably hostile social media reaction inspiring messages that forced Carney to delete her account.

"The key thing is not to be personal," says Jacqui. "What Leeds United did to Karen Carney was not funny. They knew what would come next when they posted that message.

"Karen Carney spoke so eloquently about how she felt after the incident with the tweet from Leeds and the mental health issues she suffered after that.

"So we need to make sure that constructive criticism does not result in sparking a pile-on of abuse from people waiting for an incident to voice their preconceived views.

"This is not about women being immune from criticism. There is a big difference between criticising and ridiculing someone and that is where we have to find that line in how we cover sport."

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Sky Sports is giving England's Women's Super League huge publicity after signing a deal to screen matches this season, yet many games still only manage to attract attendances in the hundreds rather than the thousands.

Soccer Saturday regular Jacqui also believes top English clubs have a role to play.

"How do they expect people to come to stadiums and to attract an audience if they are not even telling their fans that the matches are on?" she asks.

"It infuriates me. These players deserve the platform we are giving them on Sky Sports and they also deserve big crowds backing them when they are playing."

  • Sky Sports will exclusively show at least 35 Women's Super League games live this season, as well as lengthy build-ups, post-match analysis and daily news

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