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Gary Lineker: 'The standard of women's football is high - I'll be watching Women's Euro 2022'

He's not a pundit, but Gary Lineker will be glued to the Women's Euro 2022 competition.

Gary Lineker
Getty Images/Samir Hussein/WireImage
Published: Tuesday, 5th July 2022 at 9:47 am
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Gary Lineker might be the face of football punditry, but when it comes to the Women's Euro 2022 competition, he'll just be watching.

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Speaking to Radio Times magazine ahead of the launch of the tournament, the pundit reflects on how far the sport has come and how pleased he is to have Alex Scott on the team.

Read on for the full Q&A with Lineker.

Why do you think the women’s game has exploded in recent years?

Partly because it’s being televised more widely, but also because it’s improved dramatically; watch a game now and you’ll see moments of really good football and some terrific goals. I saw [Australian striker] Sam Kerr score a couple of extraordinary goals for Chelsea recently. The standard of the women’s game is becoming really high, like in tennis and golf.

Will these championships further boost the popularity of the women’s game?

Without a doubt. Think of all the kids – boys as well as girls – who will start playing as a result of an exciting tournament like this, who one day might become England players themselves.

Your Match of the Day colleague Ian Wright is a pundit on the BBC team, alongside the likes of Alex Scott, Fara Williams, Gail Redmond and Kelly Smith — were you tempted to join them?

I think the women’s game is brilliant and I’ll definitely be watching the Euros, but I’m not an expert on the women’s game. My focus is very much on the Premier League and international football. As a bloke who has either played or talked about football all his life, it’s fantastic that more people are engaged in the sport I love. When I was playing in the '80s and '90s, you rarely saw a woman’s face in the crowd at a match. That’s changed now, thank goodness.

Should women’s football be compared to the men’s?

Of course not. It’s the same with rugby and any high-powered physical sport. It’s never going to be as dynamic, technical and powerful – but that doesn’t mean to say it’s not going to be watchable, nor does it mean that the skill levels aren’t really high. But as much as I think it would be disingenuous to pretend it’s at the same level as the men’s league game, it doesn’t matter. Sport is about playing at the highest level you can play and women’s football is still football – and if you reach the very top, you deserve accolades.

In 2018, Olympique Lyonnais and Norway striker Ada Hegerberg became the first woman to be awarded the Ballon d’Or Féminin, but the moment was marred when the male presenter asked whether she knew how to twerk.

That was just embarrassing... patronising sexist nonsense that is hopefully a thing of the past now, and which just shows you how quickly the women’s game has grown. Sam Kerr recently won the PFA player of the year award alongside Mo Salah – women weren’t recognised for that prestigious award when I played.

You’ve worked with Alex Scott on BBC coverage of the men’s game. Was she a welcome addition to the team?

Absolutely! I worked with Alex when she was a pundit – she now presents – and she did her homework, which is important, but she also played at a high level all her life and really knows the game. The overall level of women’s punditry is good and improving; it’s been a welcome decision. But it’s difficult because on Match of the Day we generally only have players who’ve played in the Premier League. Given the popularity of women’s football in this country now, it’s only a matter of time before female presenters will be regular pundits on men’s football, too. But for Euro 2022, it makes more sense for there to be predominantly female pundits and the odd bloke.

The BBC’s live coverage of Women’s Euro 2022 begins on Wednesday July 6th with England v Austria at 7pm on BBC One, 5 Live and iPlayer. If you’re looking for something else to watch, check out our TV Guide or visit our Sport hub.

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