Michelle Owen. Sports Journalist
BA Language and Communication. Class of 2011.

Breaking the Mould

Michelle Owen on Shattering Stereotypes and Forging a Path in Football Journalism

The media landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years. Rewind to my time at Swansea University and it was unusual to see or hear women on the tv or radio talking about football… and honestly, I’m not that old!

When I was at University I found it inclusive and welcoming. Playing football was normal, in fact it was where you could make some great friends. Our Women’s 1st team was absolutely brilliant too with some fantastic players. Volunteering for Xtreme Radio and the student newspaper was also enjoyable and made me realise what I wanted to do was perhaps possible.

When I left University I had buckets of work experience and volunteer work behind me from the local area not just at Uni but also hospital and community radio and local papers. I landed my first job in radio where I’d worked for free whilst studying. I loved it but had to work elsewhere to make ends meet as the pay was that poor!

I was keen to also get involved with the football show but every time I offered I was rebuked, the show was three middle aged men and a younger guy. No room apparently. They did eventually relent and at least let me go to matches in my own time to gather post-match reports and cover the press conference. This experience was invaluable but also a little intimidating. I was nearly always the only woman in those press rooms, I knew no one and felt awkward. For someone who does what I do it may surprise people I can be a bit shy in those situations, but the more I’ve done it the more my confidence has grown. I wonder if I had seen another woman would it have been easier?

“I was nearly always the only woman in those press rooms, I knew no one and felt awkward. I wonder if I had seen another woman would it have been easier?”

I began reporting on Soccer Saturday whilst still on the radio, and the more games I went to the more familiar faces became and the more respect I gained. It didn’t stop another reporter once asking if I felt I should be in the kitchen on one occasion, or as I became a bit more recognised some fans shouting to get your you-know-whats out, or teasing me for having a handbag. Yes, a handbag.

Fast forward 11 years since stepping into the football world and you’re greeted with a different scene. More women are visible and there’s more diversity, what we must strive for is finding the best people for their role. Tokenism is thrown around as an accusation when we all inevitably make mistakes, but I’m confident broadcasters still choose based on ability not gender. It’s just that eyes have been opened that women may just know what they’re talking about…