Pundit for The Sunday Game Ursula Jacob sat down to enjoy her day off this past Sunday. She opened her personal Facebook account, and started scrolling through her feed.
Then, she stumbled upon a troubling article about herself.
Benchwarmers published an article titled “Ursula Jacob Comes in for Hammering on The Sunday Game Panel.”
Stunned and confused, Jacob read the article only to learn its entire story was based on two lone and insubstantial Tweets. These comments stated distaste for her Wexford accent and for her reporting as a woman.
The company that shared this article on Facebook, GAA Craic, has over 275,000 followers. This is where the article started to gain traction.
“It is not a nice topic to talk about, but I think if we don’t talk about it we aren’t going to see any progress either,” Jacob said.
Jacob reports on the hurling and camogie panel for The Sunday Game. As a camogie player, Jacob said she feels passionate about her work on the show.
“I never allowed myself to be bullied on the pitch, so I wasn’t going to allow myself to be intimidated by keyboard warriors.”
Jacob released a statement on her Twitter on Monday stating “Enough is enough.”
“It is not just about this one page on Facebook…I didn’t see any justification for writing that article.”
Jacobs explained that she welcomes criticism of her game analysis, but she draws the line at personal attacks about herself. She said people with the negative mindset towards women reporting on sports are still stuck in the “stone age.”
“Make is about the game itself, make it about the discussion or the analysis that we’ve covered,” Jacob said. “Not about whether I’ve got a strong Wexford accent or I am a female speaking on a male hurling match.”
Being in the public eye, Jacob said she never searches her own name on social media or on the internet. She said she tries to block out the negativity, however she is still an avid user of social media.
“Some people say go off social media, but to me that is not an option. I use social media for informational purposes, I use it for my research when I am preparing for big games…it is my way of staying connected with people,” Jacob said.
Jacob is not the first woman to face this kind of public abuse.
England television pundit Karen Carney faced public abuse on her Twitter account as well. Carney reported on the Premier League and suggested COVID-19 may have aided Leeds in their success.
Leeds countered by Tweeting in response, which influenced an immense amount of backlash on the reporter. Carney eventually deleted her personal Twitter account as a result.
Naomi Schiff became part of the pundit team for Sky Sport F1 for the 2022 season. Despite being a ex-professional racer, viewers raced to Twitter to question her eligibility and credentials.
Three years ago, Alex Scott has also faced public abuse as a pundit for BBC and Sky Sports simply for being a woman.
Her accomplishments as a former football player, and a talented one at that, were not enough to convince online trolls of her worthiness to analyse football on the screen.
Although it helps to prove each of these women are quite qualified to analyse their sports, it is not as if all men are held to that same standard. The public does not question a man’s reporting who has no professional experience participating in the sport.
Women in sports news are being criticised for simply being women.
Jacobs suggests the way to address this growing issue is to open the conversation.
“I would so encourage people to think before they type,” Jacob said.
Benchwarmers has issued an official apology for the article that states, "We apologise to Ursula or any of the pundits on RTE that we might have offended by reposting comments and opinions online that might have been negative to any of the RTE panel."
“Wouldn’t it be very boring and very bland if we all spoke the same and looked the same on television,” Jacob said.