Alex Scott: BBC ‘didn’t know’ about Qatar OneLove armband decision

Alex Scott wears OneLove Armband at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Alex Scott’s decision to don the pro-LGBTQ+ OneLove armband in Qatar last year was a last-minute one that came as a surprise to viewers all over the world – including the BBC.

The BBC Sport presenter and former professional footballer made history last November at the FIFA World Cup when she boldly wore the rainbow-coloured armband in defence of LGBTQ+ rights, as it is illegal to be gay in Qatar.

Her spur-of-the-moment outfit adjustment came shortly after the England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, and Switzerland teams made a joint decision to U-turn on their promise to wear the OneLove armbands, for fear of being yellow-carded.

BBC football presenter Alex Scott wears LGBTQ+ armband after teams' shameful U-turn
BBC football presenter Alex Scott wore a pro-LGBTQ+ armband in Qatar last November. (BBC Sport)

In a new interview with Attitude, Scott, who has never publicly put a label on her sexuality but confirmed she has been in relationships with both men and women, revealed what was going through her mind when she made the legendary – and potentially dangerous – decision to wear the armband on international television.

“I remember before going live on TV, I’d done my glam, I was all ready. We were supposed to be celebrating and getting ready for an England game, to cheer them on. But there I was, feeling heavy and emotional and sad,” she recalled.

“I remember being pitchside and saw Andy [part of the England team’s PR crew]. I said to him, ‘Wait!’ I don’t even know where it comes from, but I was just like, ‘No one’s told me I can’t wear an armband. I’m an ex-England player, but it’s not me going out on that pitch.’ He’s like, ‘Genius.’”

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Scott explained that the BBC “didn’t know” what she was planning – in fact, “no one knew that [she] was going to do it.”

Before going live, Scott recalls feeling “actually fearful, because of everything I’ve heard about what goes on in Qatar.”

But the former Lioness felt that this was something she had to do.

 “It wasn’t for the recognition, it was just something I felt, ‘You’ve got to do it,’” she said.

Keeping the silent protest under wraps until she was on the air, even hiding it from her interviewer Kelly Soames, Scott recalled she was “hiding [the armband] at that moment and put it on at the last minute as I was about to go live, and I said, ‘Kelly, I’m going to wear this armband, don’t ask me any questions. The statement in itself is enough.’”

Neither Kelly nor Alex addressed the elephant in the room during their on-air discussion, but there wasn’t one viewer who didn’t recognise the gravity of what she was doing.

“I could hear all the producers, then Gary [Lineker] and everyone in the studio shouting, ‘She’s got the armband!’ I just tried to block out everything. 

“I can’t remember the question Kelly was asking me, I was just standing in front of the world with the armband, and what a statement it was going to make at that moment. After getting the interview out the way, the first thing I thought was, ‘Am I actually going to be ok?’”

The Lionesses Lift The UEFA Women's Euro Trophy In Victory Celebration For Fans
BBC Sport presenter Alex Scott was widely praised for wearing the OneLove armband. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

And, while Scott was relatively fine after the risky stunt, keeping a low profile in Qatar for the remainder of her visit, she did find herself subject to an onslaught of hate online.

 “I was in a bubble of abuse being thrown at me every single day on social media,” she recalled.

However, the most important thing to Scott was that she made an impact. And that, she did.

“I remember going to the gym one morning in Qatar. I was walking along, with my head down, trying to not even make eye contact with anyone,” she recalled.

“Then I heard, ‘Miss Scott!’ I looked up and it was a cleaner. They said, ‘Thank you for what you did,’ and in that moment, I got emotional, because once again, you have Qataris living there, knowing what a powerful statement it was.”