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Wolverhampton's Jacqui Oatley on screen through tough time

By Liam Keen | Sport | Published:

With the coronavirus pandemic keeping us all in our homes – and a lack of live sport causing so much angst – there is one football programme that is persevering.

Jacqui Oatley hosting the Wolverhampton Business Breakfast

Despite the lack of football, Sunday Supplement is still gracing our screens every week on Sky Sports.

The show has a long history of bringing together the country’s top sports journalists to discuss the weekend’s fixtures and talking points – starting with Jimmy Hill in 1999.

Bill Bradshaw and Brian Woolnough took over presenting duties from 2007 before Neil Ashton got the gig in 2012.

In January, the first woman took the helm – Wolverhampton-born journalist and broadcaster Jacqui Oatley.

Although the unprecedented circumstances have given the 45-year-old an unusual start to the role, it’s been an opportunity she was ready to jump at.

“I’ve loved it, it’s something I watched anyway – all the way back to the Jimmy Hill days,” Oatley said. “It’s different, there’s nothing quite like it on the schedule, with three respected journalists within the game sitting down to share their view on the week.

“I never in a million years thought I would be in that chair asking the questions myself.

“I never thought it was something I would do because it’s always been print journalists, but when the opportunity came up, I jumped at it. I helped out when Neil Ashton was away with England and when he left I was asked to carry it on, it’s a real honour – I love doing it.

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“Something we’ve added is the issues facing sports journalism, which seems to have gone down well because it’s not something you see anywhere else.”

For freelance journalists like Oatley, however, the coronavirus is making working life uncertain.

Although Sunday Supplement is still continuing for now, Oatley is only too aware of the worries her colleagues are going through.

“There’s a big difference in sports journalism now with staff on contract getting paid every month and those that rely on live sport,” she added. “A lot of people I know are freelance, like me, and if you don’t work you don’t get paid, it’s as simple as that. There’s no safety net. I’m not complaining because there’s people in far worse situations.

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“It’s a very strange situation and I worry about colleagues of mine in this industry that are single and live on their own and who are freelance. Many of them won’t have any income without live sport, so it’s a very lonely situation.

“There are mental health implications as well as physical and of course financial ones.

“Self-employed people are often the last ones to have clarity about what is going on and it’s a worrying time for people. Particularly when they have families to feed.”

Throughout her esteemed career, there’s been several ‘firsts’ because of her gender.

In 2007 she became the first woman to commentate on a game for BBC’s Match of the Day, while she was the first female darts presenter in the UK, doing so on ITV4.

Now after becoming Sunday Supplement’s first female host, Oatley has hailed the plethora of talented women to enter the world of sports journalism – although she would like to even the balance between broadcast and print.

“It’s certainly the best time, there’s a lot more now than when I started,” she said. “But I would say they are overwhelmingly in broadcasting. On the Sunday Supplement I’m really keen on diversifying the panel so it’s not three white men every single week and we’re actively looking for the best people.

“There’s a lot of females in sports broadcasting which is great, but it is print journalism that seems to be less appealing to women.

“That’s definitely something that is an issue.

“The opportunities are there so if there are any sports-mad young girls reading this article, then I would strongly urge them to consider a career in sports journalism.

“It’s very tough to get into, but that mustn’t put them off because I know there are sports editors actively looking for good females”

Liam Keen

By Liam Keen
Sports Reporter - @LiamKeen_Star

Sports journalist at the Express & Star, primarily covering Walsall FC and grassroots sport across the Black Country and Staffordshire. Got a story? Get in touch on 01902 319456.

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