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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 April 2007, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Our pride at Jacqui's debut
By Niall Sloane - BBC Head of Football

Match of the Day commentator Jacqui Oatley
Jacqui is the first female commentator to appear on MOTD
The Earth didn't shift on its axis last night. Match of the Day went on air at 10.30pm and Manchester United's draw with Middlesbrough led the programme.

Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Lee Dixon presented and discussed the issues, closing titles were run before midnight and everyone went home.

Somewhere in there, a woman commentated on a football match on BBC 1. In and around that, a few people lost their sense of perspective.

Jacqui Oatley is a fine young broadcaster with a deep love of football. Working on Five Live, the television production teams noted her work. I spoke to her and then decided to give her a chance on MOTD towards the end of the season.

Since regaining the rights to Saturday night highlights nearly four years ago we have sent commentators to all the games we cover. Previous contracts had only allowed commentary on three or four games with the rest done as reportage at the end of the programme.

As a consequence approximately 20 commentators have now worked on the programme. Most work well, a few don't.

Jacqui deserved a chance and she was given Fulham v Blackburn. We put her name on our normal rota and somehow this reached a tabloid newspaper. Cue Apocalypse.

The phone-ins revved up, the newspapers took a view, and the bloggers blogged.

Dave Bassett opined that: "Commentary is different. You must have an understanding of the game and the tactics, and I think in order to do that you need to have played the game." He also said: "When she commentates at the weekend, I shall not be watching."

He believed that everyone he knew in the game, and Mrs Bassett, agreed with him.

Down the years I have played football with most of the major football commentators in the land. If Dave meant they should have played at the top level, then all of them are in trouble. If he meant that a woman should be able to play as well as a man, then I suspect Dave is in trouble.

One sportswriter felt it was an "insult" to her more established BBC colleagues. Colleagues like Motty actually wished her well. The Premier League (through chief executive Richard Scudamore), Fulham manager Lawrie Sanchez and managing director David McNally, and Blackburn chairman John Williams were intelligent, supportive and generous.

How did she do? She did fine. As well as we thought she would. And like a number of other commentators who start with us, Jacqui will be given more opportunities.

If some people wish to moan while roaming the Earth that's OK. The programme and all its contributors consider Match of the Day a delight and privilege to work on, and hopefully the viewers continue to enjoy it. Perhaps last night we picked up a few new ones.

Fulham 1-1 Blackburn
21 Apr 07 |  Premier League
Female first for Match of the Day
19 Apr 07 |  Staffordshire


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