my own goal

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The Independent Online
BBC Radio 5's presenter of Sunday sport reveals some of the problems and embarrassments that have arisen from her role as a woman reporter in what is still the male-dominated world of the sports media . . .

I ALWAYS try to draw as little attention as possible to the fact that I'm a female in this business. It's not that much of a drawback, especially now that there are more of us around, but in my teens Julie Welch was the only role model I had. These days you sometimes still tend to get stared at and made to feel like a two-headed monster. I still get remarks that seem to come from a different era when women made the teas or looked pretty in the directors' box.

The first time I walked into the Lord's press box the whole place fell silent. Sometimes even now when I have to walk through the pavilion I think that I couldn't get more stares of disapproval if I ripped open my blouse and flashed at all the old MCC members.

These days I know what to expect from some football managers. I was hanging around waiting for an interview with one recently. Typically, when I saw him he said: "All right, luv, I'll be with you in a few minutes, darlin, I've got to talk my directors, sweetheart." I waited there like a lemon for about 20 minutes. There were a few other hacks waiting there and looking at me suspiciously. Finally this manager came out but there were doors banging left, right and centre and I said: "Would it be possible to go somewhere quieter?" So it was arms round the shoulder and, "Oh, lads, don't interrupt for at least half an hour - we could be sometime." The problem is you have to smile sweetly and laugh.

You expect it to be a struggle to get any really professional co-operation out of people involved in top-level sport in this country. It's so different with the sports we've imported from America. Everyone wants to co-operate with the Press, so much so it can be embarrassing. I was with BBC Radio Shropshire. I'd become a fanatic for the Telford Tigers ice hockey team. I covered their matches twice every weekend so they got used to treating me like part of the furniture.

In football you would never get invited into a dressing room but it's different with American sports. There was this one occasion when I was asked into the Tigers' dressing room afterwards because that's what it's like in America - the locker room interview. I'd done one or two quick interviews from there before. I would take my tape recorder in and talk to the player-coach, Chuck Taylor. You would imagine the players would want to be keen to cover themselves up, but far from it. I'd stand there and towels were dropped and flung about and players would be striding past in nothing but a pair of skates. I'd stand there desperately trying to concentrate, gazing into Taylor's eyes and getting out as fast as I could.

This time it was "Children in Need" night and Radio Shropshire was doing the normal marathon programme. It happened that there had been a collection at the game that evening and they thought it would be a good stunt to get me to go "live" into the dressing room to collect the money from Chuck Taylor. I introduced myself from the dressing room to tell the listeners what was going to happen. I stood there and Chuck stood there and I called out to the studio that I was ready to go and would they come to me as soon as possible because I didn't want to spend any more time there than I absolutely had to.

The DJ back in the studio seemed to understand my situation and said "no problem, we'll be back very soon". He then put on "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin which lasts about eight minutes and felt like half an hour. I stood there with these half-dressed and undressed players walking about and got more and more embarrassed. In the end I grabbed the money that had been raised and raced out.