Shelley Alexander is the Editorial Lead for Women’s Sport at the BBC prior to which she worked as a programme editor at Football Focus.
What was discussed?
Her career had an inauspicious beginning due to being told that she couldn’t be a sports journalist as you don’t have women doing sport. Undeterred, she worked in other areas of journalism, building up her experience until finally she was able to work in sport.
During her time at Football Focus and Match of the Day, Shelley explained she felt a pressure to prove herself as to why a woman could work in sport. This manifested into a need to know more than the pundits and prove she had the knowledge and passion for the industry.
This pressure to prove you are “worthy” in the business is something that other women in sports broadcasting have faced. The furore over Jacqui Oatley’s first commentary on Match of the Day a decade ago highlighted that a huge part of the public, believe that men are only suitable. In response to this, Shelley along with Anna Kessel set up the campaign, Women in Football to encourage and support women.
Shelley has worked incredibly hard in supporting women and established another campaign at the BBC called “Turn Up Your Talent” to encourage more women into becoming commentators. Thanks to this initiative, we now have the likes of Vicky Sparkes and Robyn Cowen working on television.
The importance of encouraging more women into a still heavily male dominated areas of broadcasting was constantly reiterated through the talk. Businesses with more diverse boards tend to be more successful than those that don’t as they are more likely to be able to identify the interests of a wider audience.Representation is also important and campaigns such as This Girl Can and Dare to be Different are working to ensure more women get involved in sport at all levels whether it’s playing, coaching, racing engineering, etc.
Another topic for the speech was about how sports journalism often ignores the human interest stories that run parallel. Personally, this was particularly interesting as this exact discussion was had when I attended a sports journalism workshop at Sportsbeat a few weeks prior. Sport is no longer a secular topic; it now merges into news, politics and economics. Look at the likes of the preparation for the Qatar World Cup and the human rights issues surrounding it, or the football paedophile scandal or the arguments around whether governments should be spending millions of pounds on hosting tournaments such as the Olympics rather on public services. Sports journalists should be looking at the wider picture and this theme was raised again in the panel with Karthi Gnanasegaram and Victoria Cotton.
Stand out advice:
“One thing can lead to another. Seize any opportunity however unexpected.”
What I took from the session:
Listening to Shelley was incredible and I remember sitting there feeling completely in awe of all the amazing work she has done, the unwavering enthusiasm plus the inspiration she was sparking with her brilliant advice in particular which I will keep in mind whenever I face an obstacle:
“Try to do something and forget about the nonsense.”