A sports pundit expressed an opinion on a decision in a game of football. So far, so what, right? An ocean of dicksplashes proceeded to leap down her throat – because said pundit was a woman. So far, so here we go again, sighs Jen Offord.
It’s with startling regularity that I fear we might have broken the world when we invented the internet and its smiley-face buddy, social media. Don’t get me wrong, I like stalking objects of my affections on Instagram as much as the next person, but I can just about hold back from publicly shaming them when I discover they’ve got a secret French girlfriend.
If we ever needed proof that we’ve given too many bellends a platform, spare a thought for BT Sport pundit Lynsey Hipgrave, who was last week subjected to a barrage of abuse for daring to have a point of view.
For those of us who aren’t familiar with this issue, it hinges on a controversial Barcelona penalty against Celta Vigo. It’s fairly common practice in football for the penalty taker to, well, take the penalty, but in four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi’s case he decided to pass it to Luis Suárez instead.
It was unorthodox, but a legal play; although according to some, this was a disrespectful and arrogant sleight against Barca’s opponents. Like, how dare they perform with any verve to entertain their crowds, the scumbags?
Lynsey Hipgrave was in the “nah, mate” camp, and – as is also common practice for a sports pundit – expressed an opinion on the matter.
She tweeted: “Think that Messi pen is so disrespectful more I see it. Just let Suárez take the pen if you want to be such a good team mate.”
Now, I was working on a sports desk the day after the penalty in question, with Sky Sports News playing to me as I went about my business, so I can confirm that Hipgrave was by no means on her own here, as the story rolled on for much of the day. “Was Lionel Messi disrespectful?” was a big question.
Perhaps if Hipgrave had held off, they’d have had more of a response from the hundreds of people now concerned with taking her to task.
“And ladies and gentlemen, this is why we don’t hire any females unless we need our dicks sucked or our food cooked,” expressed @forestechonews.
“Haha,” tweeted @sheikhitharis, “honestly no one cares what you think cos you have a pair of tits.” Tits have frequently made me more interesting to men, in my experience, but I can’t speak for everyone.
“Fuck off you fucking titbag we need sandwiches not opinions you slag,” decreed @juanalbert098 (who was then publicly admonished by Alan Shearer, which I imagine must have hurt at least a bit).
Hipgrave, channelling my pal Bey’ stayed gracious to the last: “Most people in football get a fair bit of trolling,” she responded. “The crime was being a woman and expressing an opinion.”
“Someone told me to ‘make a cup of tea instead’ while I was tweeting about SPOTY last year, but most people just want to have a chat about a subject they’re passionate about.”
As someone writing about sport myself, it’s important to say that this should not be taken as a damning indictment on men in the industry – certainly this has not been my experience.
I mean, it is true that Andy Gray and Richard Keys recently tweeted a picture of themselves – from Doha where they’re still broadcasting together, for beIN Sports – celebrating the anniversary of being sacked by Sky for basically sexually harassing a female colleague, off air. And it is true Keys also felt it necessary to criticise brilliant and hilarious sports writer Marina Hyde for having an opinion on the, let’s face it, provocative act.
Fortunately not all men in the industry feel the same. “The problem I have with them [Gray and Keys], though, is that I think they think they’re winning,” commented one male colleague. “I reckon there’s still the odd tearful moment in front of the mirror,” said another.
Nor should it be seen as a common attitude of fans. Sure, someone told me to “make a cup of tea instead” while I was tweeting about SPOTY last year, but most people just want to have a chat about a subject they’re passionate about.
I’ve spoken to female pundits who’ve said they’ve never experienced any jip from fans whatsoever. Likewise I’ve spoken to tremendously experienced pundits who’ve told me they keep their football tweets as bland as possible given the ferocity of some comments levelled against them in response.
There are a whole lot of the bad ‘isms’ in society and in football, and it’s time to kick them all out. Let’s be clear that the crime here is not being a woman: it’s being a shitwit with no sense of social propriety and probably little understanding of the kind of disrepute they bring on a game they profess to love.
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Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen