OLIVER HOLT: The BBC’s Alex Scott is in Qatar on merit, defying a regime that treats women as second-class citizens and gay women as criminals. She deserves praise… not scorn, cynicism or censure
- Alex Scott deserves our admiration for having the courage to travel to Qatar
- She does not deserve scorn or cynicism for choosing to work for the BBC there
- It is so important that superb female presenters and reporters are in Qatar
- They aren’t here in support of a regime like Qatar – they are here in defiance of it
- Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results
Alex Scott does not deserve our censure for making the decision to travel to Qatar to report for the BBC. She does not deserve scorn. She does not deserve cynicism. She is doused with all of those things because some people want to silence voices like hers, voices which make inconvenient observations about Fifa and its decision to hold the World Cup in a country that treats women as second-class citizens and gay women as criminals.
So Scott does not deserve criticism. She deserves our admiration for having the courage to travel to Qatar to work for the BBC and continue doing a job she loves, and which she has earned on merit. At this men’s World Cup, in particular, it is more vital than it has ever been before that there are top-class female broadcasters reporting on the sport and reporting on the issues.
It is more important than ever that superb presenters, commentators and reporters like Talksport’s Faye Carruthers, Laura Woods, Natalie Sawyer and Lianne Sanderson are here. It is more important than ever that admired professionals like the BBC’s Natalie Pirks, Vicki Sparks, Robyn Cowen and Emma Saunders, are at this World Cup. It is great to see another trailblazer, Jacqui Oatley, here working for Fox.
The presence of these women at this World Cup is not in support of a regime like Qatar. They are here in defiance of it. So people who call Scott a hypocrite do not know what the word means. Hypocrite is the word people use now when someone voices an opinion with which they do not agree. Hypocrite is the word they use as the prelude to some silly whataboutery. Scott is the opposite of a hypocrite.
She is standing up for her principles and she is standing up for the right to be who she is. She has spoken recently of being in a same-sex relationship in the past and she is refusing to be cowed by a state that criminalises same-sex relationships. She is also, to her credit, refusing to indulge the psycho-babble inanity of Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who claimed on Saturday to identify with gay people.
‘You are not gay,’ Scott said, responding to Infantino’s comments as she took her place on the BBC panel ahead of the World Cup’s opening game between Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday night. ‘You will not understand travelling to a country where you are fearing for your life about your preference of who you choose to love.’
It was refreshing to hear Scott speak out so boldly at the start of BBC coverage which, led by Gary Lineker, did not shy away from confronting the fact that this tournament is being staged in a country that has been widely criticised for its human rights record and where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of migrant workers are thought to have died during the building of the World Cup infrastructure.
Alex Scott deserves our admiration for having the courage to travel to Qatar to work for the BBC and continue doing a job she loves, and which she has earned on merit
The presence of several superb female reporters, presenters and commentators at this World Cup like Pien Meulensteen (L) and Laura Woods (R) is not in support of a regime like Qatar – they are here in defiance of it
The BBC’s refusal to shy away from the issues was in stark coverage to the supine coverage offered by Fox Sports in the USA. Qatar Airways are a major sponsor of their coverage and it showed. In the States, the BBC’s introduction to the tournament was held up by many as an example with which to shame their own World Cup broadcaster.
Criticism of Lineker, Scott and other pundits who are here for the BBC is baffling. They are here to do their jobs as presenters and reporters. The idea that being here for a foreign organisation and reporting impartially and often critically, suggests support for the regime is absurd.
It was also encouraging to hear Scott call out the emptiness of the continued assertion we are fed by Infantino, and which we were fed again by the glib messaging at the Opening Ceremony, that this is a tournament which is bringing people of the world together.
Scott does not deserve to be called a hypocrite for choosing to work in Qatar – she is standing up for her principles and she is standing up for the right to be who she is – the opposite of a hypocrite
It is hard to promote that message with a straight face when the laws of the host nation would put a whole section of the world’s community behind bars just for being who they are.
‘To keep saying football is for everyone,’ Scott said, ‘that’s what you keep feeding us with. But it’s not, because people have not been able to travel to support their teams out of fear, so you can’t say football is for everyone.
‘When you sit and have conversations, I’ve had conversations about I should be staying at home, I should be boycotting, and I think me, personally, that would be the easy option to do just that.
Gianni Infantino’s words that this is a World Cup bringing people together are full of emptiness
Criticism of pundits who are in Qatar for the BBC is baffling – they are here to do their jobs as presenters and reporters
‘I’m here because I love my job and when I think about it sitting here and having the harder conversations, and it’s bigger isn’t it, we’re talking about migrant workers, the LGBTQ+ community, women’s rights.’
Scott was right to fly to Doha to do her job. Her presence here, her willingness to voice her opinions, her pride in who she is, are victories against a repressive state and an organisation, Fifa, so in thrall to its Qatari paymasters that it is doing everything it can to dissuade the captains of several countries, including England, from wearing a OneLove armband.
It is to the BBC’s credit that Scott, Lineker and Alan Shearer were given the platform to speak out. They used it well.
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