By Deniese O’Flaherty
Last weekend BBC reporter Sonja McLaughlin was subjected to abuse after her post-match interviews from the Wales v England Six Nations game.
French referee Pascal Gauzere had a poor game but one thing about rugby is the respect shown to officials and therefore you won’t hear much criticism after a game. McLaughlin wanted a reaction from the England camp on decisions that went against them but I felt the way she worded the questions were all wrong. She then kept at England Owen Farrell about the official, instead of leaving it.
Now this did not warrant the abuse she got after the game which left her crying in her car. As I have said before there is a difference between constructive criticism and abuse. A lot of comments were made about her being a woman. Just weeks ago ITV’s Maggie Alphonis was subjected to sexist remarks after covering Italy v England. BT Sports’ reporters Karen Carney and Alex Scott have also been on the end of sexist comments. I hate feminism and women’s lib stuff but this is where I stand up for womankind.
It is hard being a woman in a field that is dominated by men, I find your every move is watched and scrutinised and I’m speaking from experience. Yes there are times when I am praised and looked on as an equal but a lot of times I’m not.
Speaking to a friend recently I said I could write a book on my experiences. It wouldn’t be nice reading for a lot of people. I wonder how many male journalists have stories to tell. The answer is none.
Male or female, it shouldn’t matter as long as you are good at your job. McLaughlin’s questioning I felt was poor but it wasn’t because she was a woman, I think it was more the case she was eager to get answers.
I have faith in my ability and know I am good at what I do. The problem is and I know from past experiences that being a woman you are overlooked for certain jobs. I have always loved sport. In primary school we had to write a story on what we wanted to do when we grew up – at eight years of age I didn’t want to be a nurse, teacher, doctor etc. like a lot of my friends, I wanted to be manager of Liverpool. I still think I could’ve done a good job.
My parents always encouraged my love of sport. Since I was a young girl I’ve been brought to various sporting events. I am still as engrossed now as I was when I first went to games. I still give a running commentary on things.
I find players and managers are brilliant towards me, to them I’m just another journalist. They treat me with respect but get me to join in with the banter. I’ve found down through the years though, that supporters and
colleagues can have a problem.
So what if I am a female. I have a love and a passion for sport and that’s not going to change. I still think discrimination in sports reporting is a problem. I’d like to see change but being a pessimist I won’t hold my breath. Reporters should be judged on merit, not on their sex.