April 19, 2007 / 12:25 PM / 12 years ago

"Match of the Day" gets first woman commentator

LONDON (Reuters) - After more than 40 years of male domination, “Match of the Day” will get its first female commentator on Saturday in a move that has left some football die-hards crying foul.

File photo shows Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper Brad Friedel during a FA Cup match at the Emirates Stadium in London February 17, 2007. Jacqui Oatley, 32, will make television history on Saturday when she picks up the microphone for the BBC's flagship football show at the Premier League game between Fulham and Blackburn. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Jacqui Oatley, 32, will make television history when she picks up the microphone for the BBC’s flagship football show at the Premier League game between Fulham and Blackburn.

While most in football welcomed her arrival in one of TV’s last male bastions, critics said it smacked of political correctness and would undermine the BBC’s credibility.

“I am totally against it and everybody I know in football is totally against it,” former Sheffield United and Wimbledon manager Dave Bassett told newspapers. “The problem is that everybody is too scared to admit it.

“I knew this would happen eventually. The world of football is so politically correct these days.”

Daily Mail football writer Steve Curry also saw red, complaining that “Oatley’s excited voice sounds like a fire siren”.

“I am from the old school when football press boxes and commentary positions were men-only locations and the thought of a female commenting on football was abhorrent,” he wrote.

Her move into the Craven Cottage commentary box is an insult to the likes of John Motson, the BBC commentator famous for his sheepskin coat, he added.

Curry and Bassett found little support in the dozens of Internet chatrooms devoted to football. Many said the row was a fuss over nothing, given Oatley’s record on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Any woman that can relieve my ears from the tedious old-man droning of John Motson ... may well have a place in commentating,” wrote one contributor.

Roger Mosey, the BBC’s head of sport, said the lack of female commentators on TV and radio was “daft”.

“It is something we want to put right,” he said. “Jacqui, like all our other commentators, has been selected on merit.”

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