Women on the Panel

Thing’s change, times change, society changes, but that does not mean we should not analyze the cause and drivers of this change. And so with much trepidation, I will grasp the nettle on this one. Why are there suddenly women on premier league soccer panels?

Only a few short years ago the panels of professional soccer was an exclusively male preserve then, then in the last 2 years, we see women appear. No man, or indeed woman would have failed to notice this when they first tuned in to watch a match on Sky or BBC. Many however would be very careful with their reaction, as to even pass a remark on this change in tradition would incur the wrath of the diversity generation.

But I, in full honesty was thinking why is there a woman talking about elite football on my television for the first time? and more importantly, why does this get on my nerves?

To make an argument about who should be on football panels is to first ask who is not on football panels. Taking Match of the Day as an example, the show has been anchored by Gary Linear for some years now. Gary was a professional footballer who played at an elite level for club and country. The panelists down through the years can boast similar credentials, and they were never picked from outside the playing pool of the premier league or the old first division. Managers sometimes made an appearance, but again elite credentials were mandatory. And so the formula was in place stretching back as far as I can remember.

Now just because they were great players does not make them experts on football, in fact, many great football brains were never great players, and indeed the army of soccer journalists from around the world were not great players either. But journalists were never invited onto the panel, and managers were a rarity. The formula was men with experience of playing at an elite level commenting on other men playing at the same level. This was the unspoken contract, a current professional will be lauded or criticized by fellow pros, who went through the same process.

So we come to the later part of this decade when gender, race, and identity have become something that permeates social and corporate structures throughout the western world. What started on American campuses as striving toward equality and inclusivity has become a frantic drive to level all of our gender roles into some sort of last century irrelevance. The fact is lots of women watch and enjoy sport, and lots of women know plenty about it too, but so do lots of men, and they are not invited onto panels of “experts” because, under this format, to give your two cents, you need to have played the game at this level.

So why are there women on the panel? without stating the obvious, there is no comparison between women and men’s football. Yes, they are playing the same game but at vastly different levels. It’s like comparing Jimi Hendrix to a session musician.

To follow this to its logical conclusion, would a man who played for a semi-professional team in England’s lower league reality be taken seriously if he was giving his opinion on elite professional football, on the TV, on the panel? course he wouldn’t, Graeme Souness and his pals would laugh in his face! How the hell would you know what it’s like to play mid-field in top-flight football?

And yet this same semi-professional player and his average third division team would comfortably beat the best female teams in the world. Now the reason for this is again, obvious, but how can a woman who plays professional soccer in ladies league really give an opinion on a game that is light years ahead of the one she plays every Saturday.

If her opinion is equally valid, and if we have ripped up the old system of male pros on male pros, then why not get a journalist or lower league players involved. But this is not what this is about, this is about gender and politics, and diversity and corporate culture, that is distorting common sense all over the place.

The reason why there are women on the panel for the first time is that there were no women on the panel. It’s really no more complicated than that. And up until recently the reasons for this were perfectly understandable, but not in this new world.

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