The news that Helen Chamberlain is quitting – or more accurately has been axed from – Soccer AM after twenty two years on the famous Sky Sports couch, along with Channel 5’s less eye-catching decision to replace Lynsey Hipgrave on its Football League Highlights Show with Colin Murray, sums up the second-class status of female football journalists on the eve of a new Premier League season.
This was highlighted in April when then Sunderland manager David Moyes told BBC reporter Vicki Sparks she “might get a slap even though you are a woman.”
And it’s not just football that gives female journalists a hard time. It seems it’s doubly difficult for women to be accepted in the masculine world of sports unless they are “brilliant”. Many female sports stars and media personalities question whether it’s worth putting up with the aggravation every day, Georgina Turner, a former football writer for the Guardian, told the BBC in the wake of the Moyes incident.
Thankfully, there are some well-known names flying the flag for female sports commentators that will hopefully encourage young women to try their hand at sports journalism.
Here’s our list of the top 5 female sports presenters representing for the girls:
The grande dame of female sports presenters – and OBE no less – is a household name the world over. Barker is synonymous with one thing: Wimbledon. The former professional tennis player has won no fewer than 11 WTA Tour singles titles, including a Grand Slam at the 1976 French Open at the age of just twenty. She has hosted the BBC’s Question of Sport for over two decades and is Wimbledon’s annual anchor.
Award-winning presenter, writer, broadcaster and former leading flat jockey (oh, and did we mention OBE too?), Balding is a regular screen presence throughout the year on BBC, Channel 4 and BT Sport. Since her broadcasting debut as a presenter at Royal Ascot in 1995, Balding has fronted coverage of a number of leading sports events including the Grand National and 6 Olympic games. Sports presenting royalty, Balding has no fewer than 725,000 Twitter followers.
A less established figure to inspire young would-be female sports reporters is Gabby Logan. Logan has strong links to football – her father Terry Yorath was a Welsh international and played for Leeds United in its heyday. At the age of twelve, in 1976, she was in the Bradford City ground when a wooden terrace caught fire resulting in fifty six deaths. A former Wales international gymnast, she runs and plays golf in between presenting programmes for ITV and the BBC including The Premier League Show and standing in for Gary Lineker on Match of the Day. Logan currently has 416,000 Twitter followers.
Much less well known, but a potential rising star, is Isa Guha, a former England cricketer and member of the 2009 World Cup winning team, who is an occasional summariser on Test Match Special, alongside a male dominated team that includes the somewhat grumpy Geoffrey Boycott, and writes a column for the BBC website that has helped generate almost 80,000 Twitter followers.
And the prize for the female presenter who is possibly most at ease in the male sports world – particularly footie – goes to Georgie Bingham, presenter of Weekend Sports Breakfast on TalkSPORT radio. Bingham’s career spans a local radio station in Colchester, Sky Sports News and a stint at ESPN in the U.S… and she’s an Ipswich Town fanatic.