I know I should be over it by now — especially given the Lionesses brought it home this summer — but that the former Arsenal and England player has taken her rightful place between the slim-fit shirt and shiny shoes brigade of male pundits still gives me a ‘yes!’ moment.
Many more of us felt it this week, when Scott wore a OneLove armband during pre-match coverage at the World Cup — after Fifa had threatened teams with sanctions for displaying the anti-discrimination symbol and the England and Wales teams decided to drop it.
‘Alex Scott showing she has more balls than the men’ had soon become a meme. But alongside it, social media was awash with people asking why she had travelled to Qatar in the first place — where same sex relationships are illegal — if she felt so strongly. ‘Alex Scott: I love my job. And the f*****g money’ read one tweet, which was liked 25,000 times.
How predictable that a woman breaking down barriers in a man’s world is being told she should have stayed at home. In the kitchen, presumably.
Scott’s male colleagues, including Gary Lineker, have also been criticised for flying to Qatar. But the truth is that there isn’t as much at stake for a middle-aged straight white man. Their decision to boycott, or not, was likely based on reputational rather than personal risk — unlike Scott, 38, who has recently spoken about her own same sex relationship. "I’ve had conversations about ‘I should be staying at home, I should be boycotting’ and I thought long and hard about it. I think that for me personally would have been the easy option," she said this week.
“I’m here because I love my job and when I think about it, sitting here and having the harder conversations, it’s bigger isn’t it, we’re talking about migrant workers, the LGBTQ+ community, women’s rights.”
That’s just it. She’s there not only because she loves her job but because she is actually doing her job — the one for which she is paid by the BBC and not the Qatari government, as some have suggested. No doubt had she refused to travel to the World Cup, there would have been people waiting to pounce and call her unprofessional, using it as proof that she wasn’t up to being a men’s football pundit as she couldn’t put aside her personal feelings. Too emotional, they’d have said.
Scott isn’t a hypocrite, or a money-grabber, or a gold digger or any of the other labels we like to throw at women when they don’t conform. She deserves to be applauded for standing on the ground in those stadiums while standing her ground — using her voice to draw attention to a state that criminalises the LGBTQ+ community, treats women as second class citizens and has seemingly covered up the deaths of thousands of migrant workers. She is to be admired for calling out Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s bizarre speech in which he claimed “Today I feel gay” - saying on air, “You are not gay. You will not understand travelling to a country where you are fearing for your life about your preference of who you choose to love.”
Wake up: Alex Scott isn’t in Qatar because she endorses the country’s regime, she’s there in spite of it.
Her visibility, and that of other female presenters such as Sky’s Jacqui Oatley, is more important than ever at this tournament tarnished by allegations of corruption and human rights abuses. She is actively showing up the likes of Fifa, the teams who have allowed themselves to be cowed, and celebrities such as David Beckham, who have taken Qatari money and become its ambassadors.
What good would staying at home have done? Personally, it might have made her life easier to hide — but that’s just what a regime like the one in Qatar wants from women. By telling Scott she should have stayed home, we’re no better. The optics of a panel made up purely of white men would have been appalling — and she knew it. By refusing to be deterred, she is doing more for men’s sport, female broadcasters and marginalised communities than any boycott would have achieved.
It tells us so much about her and means I’ll be having those ‘yess’ moments for a long time to come.
Claire Cohen is the author of BFF? The truth about female friendship