Exclusive Interview: Jacqui Oatley

Jacqui Oatley is a sports broadcaster for the BBC- mostly commentating for radio 5 live on football matches and reporting for Football Focus.

She was the first female commentator on Match of the Day back in 2007 and has since been a vital member of the BBC’s coverage. I caught up with Jacqui for a quick chat about all things audio……….

Route into broadcasting/radio work……

I was doing something else I wasn’t interested in and so I decided to change career, scoured the internet for journalists and have a look how they got into it. I studied print journalism and radio production at evening classes while broadcasting on hospital radio. Then I gave up my job and flat, spent a summer sleeping on friends’ floors whilst doing work experience full time. 

I then undertook the Broadcast Journalism Diploma at Birmingham. While I was there I worked doing non- league football for Radio League so when I finished my course I then had some freelance work for them.

First professional broadcast for BBC Radio Leeds…..

It was a scary moment. I spent the day frantically researching Wakefield and Worksop which almost impossible.  It was a really steep learning curve and even though it was very difficult I really enjoyed it and showed me I was in the right career, you’ve got to start somewhere!

Advice on getting into commentating/broadcasting….

Be prepared to work extremely hard and to to work on subjects that aren’t your ideal and don’t narrow your options down too much. As a sports journalist you should be able to be sent to anything and so the more employable you are the more opportunities you’ll get. You work your way towards your ideal by getting to know people and taking any opportunity. Be prepared to work anywhere in the country or even abroad. Be prepared to put aside your social life because I think the people that idealise that narrow down their options. You’ve got to be willing, keen, able and hard working for any amount of hours and on weekends.

What makes a good commentator/broadcaster….

I thing when it comes to radio you need somebody who is able to paint pictures. You need to have the vocabulary to describe a situation whether it’s dark, light or whether there are thousands of bright red bucket seats left. You need to have a good voice and a good personality because if you’re quite monotonous then that  is very difficult to connect with.

I think you need good banter, we’re not talking about sport which ultimately is about entertainment and that is why we are all so obsessed with it. Especially in radio commentary I think if you can have some banter, which I love doing, and have a good rapour with whoever you’re working with then I think it makes it much easier and more enjoyable for the audience.

Technical howlers…..

Yeh the worst was with Arsene Wenger when it was the final interviews before Highbury was closed down. I sat down in a room with him, he gave me the loveliest interview, just the best interview I’ve done with him as he was wax lyrical about marble halls. Then afterwards I tried to edit something directly on the mini disk and pressed delete all instead of delete clip. It was supposed to go out for the whole of the BBC, not just 5 Live but local radio were relying on it.

I was absolutely devastated but bless Wenger, I had to wait another two hours for him to finish other interviews, but I managed to grab him at the end for a couple of minutes but his answers were much shorter and I’ve never forgiven myself for that. I certainly learned my lesson!

Highlight so far….

I would say going to the World Cup in South Africa last year as a commentator for 5 live was awesome. My mum is South African so it was a real thrill to be there and briefly see my relatives. It was amazing to go back to a country I know so well and see them put on such a good show. Unfortunately the football wasn’t always the best actually the football was probably the downside of it. You had people partying all over, it was wonderful and a real privilege to be there. Also to work with summarisers such as David Pleat, Graham Taylor, Danny Mills it was really enjoyable to spend time with these colleagues

Into the future…..

I would love to work at the Olympics, I think it is going to be absolutely amazing, certainly for the football but for anything else that comes up.

Tweeting away….

I do it mainly because I enjoy it, I’m a bit of an information junkie. But it is quite addictive. It is an important way for networking, journalism is all about information and contacts so it is a very useful tool.

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