The TV commentator reveals the secret to her success in working in a male-dominated sector.
‘Myday starts at 6am, when Phoebe 7, and Max, 4, wake my husband and me up; they’re always very funny first-thing. I jump into my gym kit before breakfast (I have two Weetabix with milk,sprinkled with flaxseed and nuts, plus a cup of tea then drive to whichever David Lloyd club is nearest football ground I’m working at.‘Usually, I listen to a football podcast while I work in the gym, doing strengthening exercises to help rehabilitate a knee injury I got playing football 17 years ago. Sometimes I do back-to-back Spin and Pilates classes if I’ve not exercised much over the week.Afterwards, I go to the gym’s café, read the football news, update my stats and thinkabout an intro for my pre-match report.I’ll have avocado with poached eggs and tomato on wholemeal bread with a coffee.‘I arrive at the stadium press room and take my seat among the mostly male pundits.
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The Lack of women in football is something I’ve been trying to tackle for years by using my voice to help women working in the sport and to raise the profile of women football. When I was honoured with an MBE for services to broadcasting and diversity in sport I was absolutely stunned, but pleased it shone a light on the work women do in football.‘I got into football when I was 13, after seeing a match on TV. I soon became obsessed but never considered a career in it. It was only after injuring my knee I thought, “If I can’t play football, I’ll see if I can talk about it instead”, and I researched, did evening classes, presented hospital radio and decided, “I’d rather be at the bottom of a ladder I want to be onthan halfway up one I don’t”. So I Gave up my job and flat, did work experience and went back to uni aged 27 to do a postgrad in broadcast journalism. I wrote to the BBC and was offered a stint on BBC Leeds commentating on non-league football. I didn’t care about pay, my social life took a backseat and I threw everything at it.’
‘Becoming the first female presenter of BBC’s Match of the Day was life-changing. I was taken aback by the public reaction; there was a massive misconception that I’d just been plucked from nowhere and, ahead of all these men,handed a job. But I was already established radio commentator on the premier league. It became an issue of sexism, and dealing with the scrutiny that followed was certainly character-building.‘When ITV rang me out of the blue and offered me a contract to present football and darts, which made me the UK’s first female darts presenter, I jumped at the chance –and it’s actually turned out to be even more fun than I had expected. It’s been brilliant getting to know a whole new set of players and pundits, and work with a great production team, often on trips away. I can’t count the number of birthdays and special occasions that I’ve missed, but my husband and kids never complain.’
‘When I’m in the press room on match day, I’m absorbed in the game; even at half time, I’m often too busy to get myself a cup of tea. I’ll cover the game until around 5pm, then interview players before driving home. If I’m back before bedtime, I’ll get the kids ready and hear about their day. Nights out are rare: once the kids are asleep, my husband and I catch up while he cooks dinner – usually chicken or prawn stir-fry, or salmon fillets with couscous and asparagus. We never have desserts at home as I try hard to curb my sweet tooth.‘I aim to stay awake for Match of the Day,but I often watch it the next morning when I get up early to play with the kids while my husband has a lie-in. I have zero downtime,but I don’t mind as my work is my passion.’
JACQUI’S TIPS ON DEALING WITH SEXISM AT WORK
●Be yourself. Don’t try to fit in by being macho or putting women down.
●Diffuse difficult situations with humour. It can work in most cases.
●If people are being vile, ignore them and block them on social media.
●Work hard, be nice to people and if they respect you, great; if not, tough.
●If you feel uncomfortable as the only woman, remind yourself you’re there to do a job, then do it as well as you can.