The Players podcast: Host Bex Smith on ‘handing the mic’ to women players

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Bex Smith is an American-born former New Zealand international, who has captained her country at two World Cups and two Olympics. She later worked for Fifa, managing the Women’s World Cups, and will be hosting BBC Sport and COPA90’s new podcast The Players, which hands the mic to some of the biggest characters in football to chat all things football and life.

“Congratulations again on a great performance in the opening match of the London Olympics, despite not getting the win. And thanks again, Hannah.”

“Um, I’m Bex. Bex Smith.”

“Oh…” Long awkward, super awkward, (did I mention awkward?) silence. “Aren’t you Hannah Wilkinson, the New Zealand captain?”

“Nope, I’m Bex Smith, but you got the second part right, I am our country’s captain.”

It’s not the worst thing that can happen to an athlete, someone getting your name wrong. It’s a mistake that anyone can make.

England internationals Jill Scott and Steph Houghton feature in the first episode of The Players
England internationals Jill Scott and Steph Houghton feature in the first episode of The Players

But when the power is with the media to raise the profile of your sport and promote interest in the game, you hope that, at the very least, they know who their captain is.

This business of mistaken identity can manifest itself in other ways, though.

I can’t tell you how many times I walked away from an interview and thought: “I hope they don’t misquote what I said or take it out of context. I hope they don’t pick something simply for clickbait. I hope what I was intending to say and my real character come through. How many people are even going to read or watch this in the end?”

Ultimately I hoped they understood and tried to help since all I wanted – still want – is more for our sport. Because we work damn hard.

‘Victimised narrative was only rhetoric I saw’

As sports people, we are at the media’s mercy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

That’s why we, BBC Sport and Copa90, are bringing you The Players podcast, where we hand the mic back to the players who know the sport, and how they want to be portrayed, best. I’ll be having laid-back chats with footballers at the top of their game and legends of the sport, who are actively involved in curating their episodes if they want to be.

And I can tell you why it’s relevant way beyond women’s football, football, and even women.

When I retired I moved to Switzerland to work at Fifa, organising the Women’s World Cups. I thought it would be an incredible ‘career path’.

But once I saw how my sport and ex-colleagues were perceived by the top decision-makers in the game, I realised investment in the sport was directly related to how much those decision-makers liked the sport.

I never thought of myself as a raging bra-burning feminist. But it seems I have actually become one – if I ever wore a bra now after lockdown – after seeing how investment and

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