Seema Jaswal: ‘We’re seeing more women in sports media, but there’s still a long way to go’

first_imgWhen I told my neighbour I wanted to be on TV, she said ‘Seema, that doesn’t happen to people like us’ Share on Messenger “Again, it’s where you need role models,” she says. “The reason you don’t see many Asian footballers is that there haven’t been many for others to look up to. It would be nice to see more in media too but it’s the same as with gender: it just takes more people to go through and encourage others, and there are a lot of people working hard to do that.”She points out the example of her Premier League Productions colleague Manish Bhasin and namechecks a list of women who are, slowly but surely, helping to swing the sports broadcasting pendulum – Jacqui Oatley, Eni Aluko, Alex Scott, Gabby Logan, Natalie Sawyer, Kelly Cates and Caroline Barker, among others. All are outstanding professionals and Jaswal says that, above all else, is what matters.“I’d like to think the youngsters watching now will think it’s totally normal to see a range of people from different backgrounds on telly – to think: ‘I can be myself and still do it.’ But also that, no matter who you are or where you’re from, if you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re not credible you’re not going to get there anyway. That’s the message I’d send to the generation looking up to me.” Soccer The idea that there might be barriers in her way did not occur to Seema Jaswal until, soon after deciding that a role in front of the cameras was the ideal way forward, a chance conversation arose with her family’s neighbour. “She’s an older lady, a lovely person who had seen me grow up,” she says. “When I told her I wanted to be on television she said: ‘Seema, things like that don’t happen to people like us.’ And I remember thinking: ‘But why?’”Jaswal has spent the subsequent decade proving that statement wrong. She is a familiar face to millions, hosting Premier League Productions’ worldwide coverage of the English top flight and covering a range of sports across most of the major domestic channels. She was a roving reporter for ITV’s World Cup team in Russia, vox-popping around host cities at one stroke and mediating pundits’ pitchside discussions the next; football is her focus and she is acutely aware that, as a woman of Asian heritage in her early 30s, she is beating a path that has not always been open to those before her. ‘Jacqui took a bullet for us’: the women with key World Cup reporting roles “I think sport played a big role in making me more confident,” she says. Jaswal’s maternal grandfather was a successful tennis player in Uganda; she grew up with “tennis in my blood”, becoming a PTR-certified coach at the age of 16. It meant working on court rather than in a high-street store during her A-levels; it also, according to her doctors, played a part in saving her life when she contracted bacterial meningitis during her higher education.“At first the doctor thought I had a cold and then the paramedics thought I was on drugs,” she says. “Then I fell into a coma for a couple of days. A lot of people who go through meningitis come out with a visual impairment or other life-changing problems; I came out completely unscathed and they said that, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was so sporty, I might not have survived because it was quite a severe case. I felt very lucky and it definitely made my love of sport stronger.” “I never really heard: ‘Oh, you’re a woman, it’s going to be really tough for you,’ but that’s because things have moved on,” she says. “I feel like we’ve seen a lot more female involvement in sports media. On the other hand there is still a long way to go. Looking around the media areas in Russia during the summer you didn’t see many women – I read that it was 14% – so that alone tells you things need to change. But it is moving in a positive direction and the last couple of years have been very important. It’s our responsibility now to pave the way for others coming through.”Nowadays Jaswal hears female voices in her earpiece as she prepares to broadcast, and sees women’s faces among the sound assistants and camera operators behind the scenes. It has not always been like that, she says, during a career whose profile has risen sharply in the last two years. She was “a shy little girl” during her early years growing up in west London and, even while studying for a degree in sociology and politics at Royal Holloway University, took time in committing to a particular path. With the confidence of increased maturity came the idea that television, preferably drawing upon her lifelong love for sport, might not be unrealistic; after a stint at Sky Sports she got her big break with CBBC’s Sportsround show. Twitter Pinterest Share on Facebook Topics Share on LinkedIn Darts and snooker were among her future on-screen assignments – along with a stint working on The Wright Stuff – but football became her specialism after she accepted an offer to front Star Sports’ coverage of the Indian Super League in 2015. It meant relocating for just over a year; the plan after that was “to get to the World Cup, whatever happened” and, with her trajectory seemingly set for now, she wants younger people to know that a sense of drift does not mean the end of hope.“When I think of the person who was so confused about where she was going to go and didn’t know if she was making the right decisions, I know there are so many kids and young adults going through the same thing,” she says. “I think it’s even more pressurised now, and it’s important to be a role model for them. I’ve given a few talks on confidence, stuff I’ve learned as a presenter: the art of presenting is something I think everybody needs in some shape or form. We’re often in a position where we have to present or project ourselves but nobody ever really teaches you that.”That applies in general and, particularly, among those under-represented communities. Jaswal was, by her own admission, blown away by the primacy of football during her time in India – “I was told: ‘You’ve got a job on your hands’ because everyone loves cricket but the younger generation are totally obsessed” – but that is yet to be reflected globally on pitches or in her own role.center_img Share on Pinterest The Recap: Sign up for our weekly roundup of editors’ picks. Share on Twitter Share via Email Read more Seema Jaswal’s extensive CV includes hosting the PFA awards. Photograph: John Walton/PA Television industry Women in journalism interviews Share on WhatsApp Facebook Reuse this contentlast_img

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