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Faye Carruthers: TV & Radio Sports Broadcaster

Faye Carruthers: TV & Radio Sports Broadcaster

Faye Carruthers – television and radio sports broadcaster - always had an ambition to work within the sports industry. After fuelling her passion for football throughout the 1990 World Cup, Faye’s love of the sport continued to grow and her hard work, determination and passion has led her to achieve a successful career in a demanding and competitive industry.

In this interview, Faye speaks to Sascha about her career thus far, from starting on the professional ladder as a PA at Sky, to where she is today, a freelance broadcaster working on huge projects with organisations such as Sky Sports and talkSPORT.

 

How did you start your career in the football industry?

I had a bit of a convoluted way into the industry. I’d always wanted to be a journalist and I studied Broadcast Journalism at university. However, at that time, there weren’t many opportunities within sports broadcasting, not until the university radio station was on air; we had a sports show on there. I am a massive sports fan and I grew up watching sport at home with my family. I wanted to be involved in the sports show and was told that I needed to go out and find football clubs that would let me report on matches at the weekend. I contacted Luton Town Football Club and told them I was a student who would be match reporting at their games. They let me go to the games and sit at the back of the Main Stand to report, which was a dream! It was brilliant. The first game I reported on though, was an FA Cup game; it was Mansfield versus Hayes, which was local to my university.

I ended up going down the news route but at every opportunity I had to get into sports news, I took it.

When I left university, I wanted a break from journalism but I knew I wanted to be in the media industry in some capacity. I took a role as a PA at Sky, working in the marketing department. I wasn’t a very good PA but I did have to walk through Sky Sports every day to get to the canteen so I would talk to people in the team and get to know them. I found out who it was who booked runners for Sky Sports so I went to her, introduced myself and told her I would be interested in being a runner if there were any opportunities available. An opportunity did arise and I then spent 9-5 working as a PA and in the evenings and on weekends, I was a runner or logger; it was amazing. I would spend Saturday afternoons being paid to watch football and I thought, ‘This isn’t work!’

From there, I was offered a job at Sky Sports News, in a maternity cover position, booking camera crews and reporters on the news desk. I did that role for between nine months and a year and I absolutely loved it. In my spare time, I worked with the production teams and with Sky News Radio too, putting together news and sports bulletins. So whenever I had the opportunity to do so, I would get involved with sports. News was my ‘bread and butter’ if you like but I would always work on sports projects too.

After spending some time working as a freelancer for radio stations in Yorkshire and Manchester, I returned to Sky News Radio and was sent on an attachment for two weeks at talkSPORT and again, I loved it. A job then came up there and I took it; that’s how I ended up there. I then started freelancing about ten years ago, originally working on a mix of news and sport and eventually, I have been able to concentrate solely on sport.

 

And what is it about football that you love?

The passion of it; it’s the love and the adrenaline it brings out in me. It’s also the unknown of turning up to a game an hour and a half before kick-off (three hours in normal times), soaking up the atmosphere and the overall build-up to what is going to happen. I can talk about the game and predict what will happen, look at form etc., but when the whistle blows, I have no idea what the next 90 minutes is going to bring. It could be an absolute thriller or it could bring a goalless draw! That’s what I love about it; the anticipation of what’s going to happen, particularly if I am watching my own team, rather than going to a match to report. It’s not knowing whether, when I walk back to the train station, if I am going to be happy, sad, annoyed, how it will impact my weekend etc.

I started to really enjoy football through watching the 1990 world cup, buying the Panini Sticker album, collecting the stickers and coins and getting to know the players from around the world. Football is very different now to how it was in 1990 but at its core it has the same heart that made me fall in love with it back then. Watching talented individuals surprise you and do such amazing things on the pitch makes you walk away wanting to watch it all over again. I had that feeling when I watched the Liverpool versus Newcastle, 4-3 game (1995-96). I am not a supporter of either team but I was completely enthralled by the game, watching the ping-pong action of it and the drama of it all. Football may be my job now, but that feeling will never go away.

 

Football has seen several high-profile events in the last 12-18 months, from the pandemic to the social media boycott and the proposed European Super League.

As a broadcaster, how difficult is it to remain neutral when such events take place? Do you like being a part of the controversial debates and/or do you ever worry that you will be put in a position to actively discuss your opinion in a situation you would perhaps prefer to remain neutral on?

I’m not a controversial person at all, but having an opinion is encouraged at talkSPORT. All of the presenters are passionate football fans and at the end of the day, our voices represent many football fans. It is important to have a debate but while we can put our personal views across, we have to be careful that we are presenting facts and listening to other opinions.

I would say 5-10 years ago, I would have been much more uncomfortable sticking my head above the parapet and nailing my colours to the mast on a contentious issue. Nowadays, I don’t care as much. I have an opinion and while others may not agree with it, if I can put my view across in a succinct and articulate way to make people understand where I am coming from, that’s quite powerful and can give people something to think about. I do the same when I listen to the radio and the opinions aired; often, it gives me something to think about and a view I perhaps hadn’t considered before. As long as it’s all fact-based – that’s the crucial thing – I think having an opinion is important, particularly nowadays with the use of social media.

I was ‘pro’ the recent social media boycott campaign and I joined in the action. I went back on Twitter on the Tuesday morning and having made a comment on the Guardian Football weekly podcast the day before, regarding the Manchester United protests at the weekend, I opened Twitter to ‘dog’s abuse’. I immediately closed it again because I thought, ‘I don’t need this in my life.’ I’d had four days without social media in my life and it was really nice. I have taken social media apps off (permanently) my home screen. Unfortunately, on social media platforms, when you have an opinion, you are always going to upset somebody and I don’t agree that if you disagree with someone, you have to insult them; call them names, bring their gender into it and use abhorrent swear words. I don’t understand that mentality and it’s not a world I want to associate with. However, I am also very aware that my job requires me to be on social media so it’s a fine line between the two.

The best thing for me has been to use filters and I have filtered out certain words and phrases. There is one particular word – the unpleasant ‘C’ word – which I didn’t filter out because I thought, ‘Nobody is ever going to call me that’. But I woke up that Tuesday morning and there it was and I thought, ‘That’s nice isn’t it – thank you for starting my day off like this.’ This is the world we live in unfortunately, but I won’t let them stop me doing a job I love.

I think if 10 years ago, I received the abuse I sometimes get now, it would have put me off working in the industry but I think age is quite useful because it gives you time to realise that you are never going to meet the people who say those things. They want to get under my skin and I’m not going to let them although, it’s easier said than done at times.

 

It’s so unpleasant and I don’t understand why there are people in society who think it’s okay to be unpleasant and offensive on social media. It’s inexplicable. But let’s move on to something more positive… What would be your dream fixture to report on and who would be your dream guest to interview?

I would say my dream fixture to report on would be, England playing in a European or World Cup Final. I may well get that opportunity this summer; fingers crossed!

Luton Town in an FA Cup Final would be pretty cool too but in saying that, I would be at that game as a fan and not a reporter!

But bearing in mind it’s the European Championships this summer, let’s say my dream fixture is England versus Germany in the Euro 2020 Final, at Wembley – although, that may not happen as we could meet them in the Last 16.

In terms of a dream guest to interview, I have been fortunate that I have been able to speak to amazing people on a regular basis and I have to say somebody who I have sat down and interviewed many times. He is one of my favourite people to interview, and that’s Gareth Southgate. I find him fascinating, what he’s done in his career, the adversity he has overcome; the way he man-manages players and what he’s brought into the FA to change the culture. I wish I could sit there and just chat to him, rather than a formal interview – that’s what I would love to do. Gareth’s leadership style is one I very much admire too. I am studying an MBA at the moment and I have found the modules we have studied on leadership particularly fascinating.

If I could go back in time though, I would have loved to interview Eric Morecambe and chat to him about Luton Town FC.

 

What’s been the career highlight thus far?

I know exactly what that is! I love the fact that I interviewed Harry Redknapp, at the side of his car door, for Sky Sports News. It was the day he found out that he didn’t get the England job and I didn’t expect him to stop outside of the old Spurs training ground but he did! He stopped, wound down the window, leant his head out to speak to me and I thought, ‘That’s the dream – I can quit now!’

 

And for those individuals looking to pursue a career within the area of Sports Broadcasting, what are the key factors that they need to consider before embarking on this career path?

Ask yourself whether you love sport because if you don’t, it’s not a very fun job! You will be working late nights and weekends so you need to consider that too. You also need to ensure you are passionate; this isn’t a job you can blag. Ensure you work hard too and be aware that every opportunity is important; you never know who you are going to meet and where. I have been lucky that, for a long time, I’ve not had to interview for a job because I have been recommended by somebody.

And the one thing that I tell everybody, particularly nowadays as it’s such a cut-throat industry, is to be nice. It sounds so simple but it’s really important. If you are nice and hardworking, you will stand out above and beyond those that have sharp elbows and are pushy. For a long time in this industry, those who have barked the loudest were listened to but that’s changing and managers, the hierarchy and those that will support you, will be more supportive of somebody who they can see is working really hard, gaining as much experience as they can, learning as much as they can and are willing to learn. They will be more supportive of somebody who can take constructive criticism too.

I get lots of people asking me for contacts and support and often I don’t know them; I can’t recommend somebody I don’t know or know what their work ethic is. But those I have worked with closely and can see their drive and ambition, I will bend over backwards to help.

The industry has changed. It was almost the ‘norm’ for people to purposely knock people down to test their resilience and see if they bounce back but now, the world doesn’t work like that and the industry has moved away from that too.

 

You briefly mentioned the MBA you are currently studying. What encouraged you to pursue the MBA at this stage in your career and how are you finding your studies and balancing this with your broadcasting career?

I am studying a Football Industries MBA at the University of Liverpool. Thanks to support from Women in Football, I won a scholarship to study, which is amazing. It’s a juggle to study while working full-time but I am learning so much. I wanted to do it, as the industry is changing and there is a lot more focus on football business, which is an area I want to know more about. so that when I am on air, I can talk about it with a greater understanding and insight. It’s opened my eyes to many things; it’s fascinating. I think it is crucial to have business knowledge in your locker and when you look at news such as the European Super League for example, the issue of football finances is now being widely spoken about.

I’ve also met amazing people through the MBA and we have a fantastic guest speaker series, featuring people from across all areas of the industry. In my job, I tend to deal with people directly involved with what happens on the pitch but there is so much that goes on behind the scenes and it’s so interesting to learn about it and hear about peoples’ journeys; what they want to do to change the culture and how they’ve helped the club to get to where it is today.

I am studying part-time; I have one year left and it’s been fantastic. Last week, we had an assessment in which I had to act as an agent for the transfer of a player. It was great and such a good experience. To put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and see how the transfer and negotiation process works was really interesting.

 

What advice would you give to those individuals hoping to pursue a career in any area of the football industry?

Work hard and try and be resilient because you will take knocks; it’s not a smooth path with a straight ‘A to B’ course.

I would also say be flexible because you don’t know what opportunities or jobs will come up, or who you will meet along the way. Somebody may spark a passion in you for an area of the industry you didn’t know you had. So be open to different opportunities and also network, although don’t network to get something from somebody, network because you are genuinely interested in what they have to say and what their journey has been. You may pick up just one nugget of information that proves helpful for the future.

But work hard is probably the key piece of advice as it’s not an easy job, although it’s extremely fulfilling. I always say, ‘I have a job but I don’t feel like I work.’ That’s the dream for many!

 

And finally, where do you see your career in the future? Are there any specific objectives you hope to achieve along the way?

I will always grasp the opportunities that come my way but in an ideal world I would love to present a World Cup Final, in the stadium as the main presenter. Hosting that fixture and live on radio, would be incredible.

If my broadcasting career doesn’t take me in that direction, I am open to anything. I love working in football and I feel I have a lot to give, not just in my current job but by helping change the culture of the industry.

Overall, I am excited to see where my career goes in the future. I’d happily keep broadcasting forever, but that may not be possible so I see myself branching into other areas alongside that and I’ll embrace whatever opportunities are available to me.

 

Interviewer: Sascha Gustard-Brown

Sascha is highly experienced within the area of Supporter Engagement, having held the positions of Head of Supporter Engagement at Luton Town Football Club and Supporter Liaison Officer at West Ham United. She is currently working on small supporter engagement projects in sport and freelance writing in football.