10 November 2010

BBC star's success in a man's world

Jacqui Oatley with former lecturers

The first female commentator on the BBC’s venerable Match of the Day programme talked of her struggle to be accepted in the macho world of sports journalism, at a special lecture at Sheffield University.

Reporter and presenter Jacqui Oatley told a gathering of students from the University’s Department of Journalism Studies said she was astonished at the fuss her first appearance on MOTD caused three and a half years ago.

“I just wanted to be allowed to get on and do my job, but there was a tremendous hoo-ha,” she said.

“I was trying to do my prep for the game, but the phone wouldn’t stop ringing. There were even phone-ins on Radio 5 Live and TalkSport about whether I should be doing the match.”

When she eventually arrived at Craven Cottage for the Fulham versus Blackburn Rovers clash she still found herself the unwanted centre of attention.

“I looked over the gantry and all the photographers were pointing their lenses at me, not on the pitch. Even the referee, Graham Poll, said hello.

“Once the game kicked off there was a wave of relief that people were not looking at me anymore, but at the game.

“But by that time I had hardly eaten or slept for three days and I spent the whole game doubled up in agony with stomach pain.”

Oatley told students she was a late starter in the world of journalism having studied for a degree in German and then working for an intellectual property firm in London.

It was only during an enforced lay off after badly injuring her knee playing football that she decided to follow her passion for sport, particularly football, and become a sports journalist.

She packed in her job and quit her flat and slept on friends’ floors in order to do unpaid work experience with news organisations, before taking a post-graduate degree in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University.

From there she worked for local radio stations covering non-league football before being asked to submit a demo tape to 5 Live.

Her career since then has spectacularly taken off and in recent years she’s covered the Women’s World Cup in China and was one of the 5 Live team at the South African World Cup earlier this year.

“The harder I’ve worked, the more opportunities have arisen,” she said.
Journalism, she told students, is the best job in the world, although she conceded that the unsocial hours and long hours travelling took a toll on her social life.

“Sometimes it can be lonely and I’ve found myself spending way too much time on my own”, she said.

During her visit Oatley was reunited with her former journalism lecturers Katie Stewart and Frank Mansfield who now work at Sheffield University.

Oatley was appearing in a series of guest lectures organised by the Department of Journalism Studies featuring top figures in the world of journalism.