In 2009, I responded to an article on my favourite Fulham website asking for people who would be interested in writing for them. Little did I know that Dan Crawford’s desire to encourage more people to write for Hammyend.com would be the start of a career in sports journalism for me. When he asked me to consider penning something for International Women’s Day I thought that I should go back to where it all began for me – right here. That’s the first thing that I want to get across here right from the off. As women we want equality, but we absolutely need men as allies and thankfully I have had that in Dan.
When I was growing up, sport was my everything. I would much rather have kicked the football around with the guys than play with my dolls, much to my mother’s dismay. I loved the competitive nature of sport and the stories behind the athletes and when I discovered Fulham, I was pretty much obsessed from the off. I dreamed of a career in sport in some capacity, but to be honest I rarely shared those with people as I didn’t think it was even slightly realistic. You rarely saw women’s sport on TV, never mind a women reporting on it. So naturally I just thought of it as a hobby and continued to pursue a career in teaching. When I look back now I wish I had of spoken to my English teacher about my love of writing about sport. I wish I had of been more open about my dreams as maybe my career path would have been very different. That said, I don’t regret for a second going off and becoming a teacher. It gave me a load of skills that have been easily transferable across to me now working at BBC Sport. It also gave me 2 years of working in a completely different industry and allowed me to build up some valuable life experience before taking the plunge into journalism.
But let’s rewind slightly. I was about 16 when I wrote my first article for Hammyend.com and one of the first comments was “I don’t know why they let women talk about football…” from an anonymous poster. While this attitude isn’t quite as prevalent as it once was, it is still around. Some guys just don’t like it when women know a lot about football and they will look for any flaw possible and pounce on it. The next comment down was from another female fan who just simply said that it was great to hear a female perspective on things. It’s so important to come away from the old school, boys club attitude. Women have loved football, and sport in general, since the beginning but the traditional stereotypes meant that sport was seen as something for the boys. I had been writing for years when I finally applied to be the match day reporter at Lisburn Distillery Football Club in Northern Ireland. It was a voluntary position and meant that I wouldn’t be able to play hockey anymore because my Saturdays would be spent following a football team around Ulster. It was a big sacrifice for me but by then I knew that I really wanted to make a go of it. I learned so much that year about the industry and about the emotions in the dressing room. Distillery were once a power house in Northern Irish football but that year they nearly got relegated out of the main football ladder. Following that and writing about it was actually very emotional. Thankfully they survived and speaking to the players, coaching staff and club staff throughout that year was an incredible learning curve.
When you are a women in sports reporting you get very used to being the only female in the press box, or having people mistaken you for the tea lady. You also have to work harder to prove yourself. I have found that time and time again in my career. But I have also found that when you are doing something that you love that it’s worth it. While we still have a long way to go in regards to equality in sport – both on and off the field – I can see change happening. I am fortunate enough to work alongside some incredible women at BBC Sport and I have found that there are networks of support everywhere. The key message for me is that if you have a passion for something, you should absolutely pursue it. I find that if you love what you do, it’s much easier to put 100% into it. The journey is rarely smooth, let’s be honest, but it only takes one ‘yes’ to allow you to begin. Writing about Fulham has always and will always be one of my greatest pleasures and I hope that shows in my writing. I’m thankful for the opportunity to write about something that I love so much.
If you are reading this and think that you too would like to start and put your thoughts into writing articles then I say give it a go. The first ‘yes’ has to be from you.