United Kingdom

Clare Balding reveals she refuses to cover men's football because it's 'toxic' for female presenters

Veteran BBC Sport presenter Clare Balding has said that she refuses to cover men's football because it's 'toxic' for female presenters who suffer 'vile abuse' on Twitter.

Speaking to the Creative Forum, Balding said female broadcasters offering their opinion on male football matches results in 'the worst of tribal behaviour'.

'Any woman who pops up on a football programme offering expertise, or in the role of presenter, will be opening the door to such vile abuse on social media,' she said, according to The Mirror. 

Veteran BBC Sport presenter Clare Balding has spoken out against the 'vile abuse' female presenters receive when covering men's football, saying she refuses to work on it as a result

She also recalled that when she first started out working as a pundit and host, the number of women appearing on television was limited.

'It was "We have one woman, we can't have two"', the 49-year-old said. 'You’re fighting another woman for that one chance'.

Since starting in broadcasting in 1994, Balding has gone on to present or work as a pundit on six Olympic Games, Wimbledon, Sports Personality of the Year, as well as fronting the BBC's coverage of Rugby League for several years - to name just a few of her credits as one of the most recognisable faces on British television.

In recent years, there has been a push by broadcasters - such as Sky Sports, BT Sport and BBC Sport - for more women football presenters to appear on television as both pundits and commentators.

Alex Scott, the former England and Arsenal footballer and star of Strictly Come Dancing, became the BBC's first female pundit at a men's World Cup in 2018.

Later that same year, she also became the first female pundit on Sky Sports to join the 'Super Sunday' team, offering insight on men's Premier League games.

Former England and Arsenal player Alex Scott - who is now a presenter on the BBC and Sky Sports - has been on the receiving end of the abuse Balding spoke about. Scott herself has spoken of her experiences, saying she has previously received rape and death threats

However, she has also been outspoken about the abuse she has received online, saying earlier this month that  she has received horrifying death and rape threats from social media trolls.

The Arsenal legend has been the target of online hate for years, from her career, her time presenting Football Focus and most recently after being tipped to replace sacked host Sue Barker, 64, on A Question Of Sport. 

Rumours of her new presenting role were met with a fierce Twitter backlash which included vile trolling referencing Scott's race, and she has also said she is continually accused of 'ticking a box' in her broadcasting career.  

Speaking on Clara Amfo's podcast This City earlier this month, she said: 'It was like every day, every day when I was coming off I was just getting this wave and this wave. And then like I said, then there were death threats and rape threats. 

'I live on my own and I'm like, I can't even. Who can I even speak to about this? I don't want my mum to worry. I don't want, like how I said people to feel like I can't handle myself or I can't handle this business because what? 

'People’s go-to line is to "Just get off social media." And I'm like, you don't understand. 

'I have good fans who I want to connect with and show my personality. And then you just have this wave and this hate, and it was so hard in the early stages to deal with.'

The England and Arsenal legend Alex Scott has been the target of online hate for years, from her career, her time presenting Football Focus and most recently after being tipped to replace sacked host Sue Barker, 64, on A Question Of Sport

Ms Scott has previously spoken about being driven into a 'dark place' following online abuse, which saw her turn to drink to deal with her ordeal. 

But the former Strictly Come Dancing star went on to say that instead of now being affected by the abuse, she's continuing to use her voice to call for change and to promote positivity.

She continued: 'But like how you said like you need to just use your voice. I understand the importance cause before I was just there. But actually no, I need to fight for change to happen. 

'I'm in a position where I can keep having these conversations. I know I've got a role and I have to play; I have a platform and it's my responsibility to use my platform in the right way.' 

Speaking in October, she said: 'Every job that I'm linked to and every job that I'm going to be doing on screen for the next couple of years, I know the first thing people will be saying – a lot of it because it is already happening – it's because I'm ticking a box.'

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