Leanne Crichton

Some of the social media abuse directed at the likes of former England footballers Alex Scott and Karen Carney has been absolutely outrageous. BBC journalist Sonja McLaughlan admitted it had even reduced her to tears and I too have found myself a target for online bullies.

On International Women’s Day, we should not allow some people who belittle us to mask the fact the increased number of females on TV and radio talking football has helped change the landscape of the women’s game, and has provided positive role models that will hopefully inspire the next generation.

However, social media is a tough place to be right now for everybody and, probably because we’ve all spent more time on it over the last year than perhaps we would have liked, a lot of people are expressing their own frustrations on a platform where there’s no accountability.

When I first went from pundit to presenting the Scottish Championship programme on BBC Scotland, I received a lot of criticism: about the way I sound, saying I was rubbish; that I didn’t look the part, my hair was a mess.

I think those are the toughest ones because it’s not just me who sees those comments – it’s family and friends.

I’m not saying my male counterparts don’t receive criticism – they absolutely do – but the type of criticism, the type of comments, are often from a sexist angle or come from that old-school misogynistic attitude that women shouldn’t be on TV or don’t deserve to be speaking about football, or that their opinions are not valid simply because they are a female.

I’m open to constructive criticism and critique – I don’t mind that as I am thick skinned – as you have to be constantly learning. I’m studying a fast-track honours degree in sports writing and broadcasting so that I don’t ever need to just depend on the fact I am a current or former player.

When I started playing football, I didn’t ever think that I would end up a professional, never mind a presenter and pundit. I just thought that was something boys could do – I was always told that at school – and it’s only really my generation of players that are now getting these opportunities.

Leanne Crichton celebrates with Glasgow City
Helping Glasgow City progress in the Champions League and reach 13 league titles in a row has been great experience

I’ve been lucky that the women’s game has evolved quite significantly in the last number of years and I feel a real level of respect from most of the football managers I deal with now. They actually recognise my career and my achievements and they understand my questioning.

If anything, people underestimate the power, confidence and knowledge within women’s football and I think, over the last number of years, people have probably grasped that a bit better.

When I was growing up, there were females on TV who were the faces of certain shows, but there wasn’t a fair representation of, for example, a female footballer. Now there are people I can relate to, like Alex Scott and Sue Smith, and I think the increasing diversity of voices has improved the all-round coverage of football.

Because we’ve not come from a full-time professional career and that isn’t everything we’ve ever done, we can introduce a different perspective. I’ve studied a separate degree in health and social care, have my own personal training company and charitable foundation on top of all my football commitments.

It is a frustration when people think you don’t have a valid opinion on men’s football because you are a woman – but, for me, football is football.

At the end of the day, what defines me as a person is not social media. The only feedback that matters is whether or not it has been a good show.

There are still moments where I almost pinch myself at the opportunities with which I’ve been presented. I genuinely feel blessed to be working in a job I love – talking about football.

Leanne Crichton was speaking to BBC Sport Scotland’s Clive Lindsay.

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