Get back in the kitchen… Gary? England icons Neville and Jill Scott MBE secretly swap accounts exposing ‘uglier side’ of football

Ahead of the Champions League returning, the famous pundits showed how gender bias impacts female fans far more than men, in partnership with Heineken

Gary Neville was flooded with sexist abuse when taking over England women icon Jill Scott MBE’s social media channels in a secret experiment highlighting the problem of gender bias in football against women.

Neville and Scott teamed up with Heineken for ‘The Social Swap’, swapping accounts for five days at the end of last season.

The results exposed how much more toxic the football experience is for women online - highlighting that toxicity doesn’t result from what is being said, but from who is saying it.

Scott played 161 times for her country, making her the second-most capped Lioness of all-time. She featured for England more times than any male footballer, and is a respected leader in the sport and the UK, where she has become a household name.

But her account - run by Neville - was subjected to five times more sexist responses than Neville’s. The examples below are a small sample of the responses, while Neville’s own channel, run by Scott, was comparatively free of comments driven by gender bias.

Jill Scott Gary Neville Social Swap Heineken

Scott said: “Attitudes have definitely changed, but there's no doubt that female fans, pundits and players still get a lot more online negativity than men due to gender bias. You develop a thick skin – but we shouldn’t have to.

“Some people have probably been left a little red-faced by this experiment but hopefully it's reminded everyone of the need to kick gender bias out of the game for good. Anyone can be a fan of sport, regardless of gender and it’s time to remember this."

Jill Scott Social Swap Heineken

Neville, who played his entire career at Manchester United until retiring in 2011, is no stranger to critical comments, but Heineken’s swap opened his eyes to the baseless abuse experienced by fans who are women online.

“The heated debates and rivalries are what makes football so exhilarating,” Neville said. “But when negativity is linked to gender, this goes too far, especially from behind a screen.

“By putting myself in Jill’s shoes and seeing the reaction, I have seen first-hand the uglier side of this sport that I love and want to make it clear that football is for everyone.

“On the pitch and online, we should treat each other with respect no matter our gender, race, sexuality or what colour shirt we’re wearing.”

The Social Swap is the latest effort by Heineken to tackle gender bias, having launched Fresher Football in 2022 to put UEFA Champions League women on the same footing as men.

Gary Neville Social Swap Heineken

“Heineken wants to be the most inclusive sponsor in football and 'The Social Swap’ shows not only the unfair imbalance in football fan culture but also how important it is that we all give gender bias and online toxicity the red card!” said Nabil Nasser, global head of Heineken brand.

Heineken will be giving away free access to Arwen, an AI-powered online moderation tool that will allow football fans to filter out negativity from their social media feeds by hiding any unwanted or offensive comments and spam. Try it for yourself here.

Nasser said its partnership with Arwen will allow Heineken to “leverage new AI technology to help fans ditch the negative noise and for this new season keep conversations about football, just about football.”

On the pitch, the UEFA Women’s Champions League (UWCL) final between Barcelona and Wolfsburg in the Netherlands was a thriller, with the Spanish champions coming back from two goals down to win 3-2.

The UWCL is currently in its qualification rounds, with the group stage returning in mid-November. The men’s UEFA Champions League group games kick off sooner, on Tuesday September 19.