The Offside Rule Podcast: Jacqui Oatley

Photo: Jacqui Oatley

In February the new look The Offside Rule Podcast relaunched with co-founder Lynsey Hooper being joined by former England international, Tash Dowie. While it’s a new look it is the same informative discussion but this time there is less focus on the Women’s Super League as they tackle issues and talking points from up and down the women’s football pyramid and across the globe.

In the last episode of the season, Lynsey and Tash are joined by broadcaster and commentator, Jacqui Oatley. She discusses her career which spans over twenty years and provides advice for women looking to enter the sports media industry.

For me, Jacqui is arguably women’s football broadcasting royalty. Her insight into the game and how it’s changed over the years is fascinating.

On the comparison between her approach to men’s and women’s football, Jacqui says, “It is really different. And I have to be careful that I don’t ever complain about lack of information about women’s football now, because compare it to say Euro 2005, when I was trying to find information on my first match there between England and Finland women.

“Oh my goodness. Well, the England information I got from the press officer and from the people I knew there, but Finland, I just have this memory of them all having blonde ponytails and trying to work out what on earth they looked like. Yeah, there was no Y Scout back in those days.

“There was no YouTube with all their clips and all those things. And so now it’s so different.

“If I was picking up after Super Sunday and we were inheriting an audience of a Premier League game, then I’d be considering that a lot of these people probably haven’t switched on specifically for the women’s game, obviously some have but a large proportion will have been left over from watching that and thinking, oh, what’s this? And so I tend to try to keep everything simple to the point, journalistically top line, think why do people need to care about this game? What is important about this game? Who are the key players? Who are the key battles between? What will draw people in?

“Maybe it’s because I’ve always cared so much about promoting the women’s game that I always think whenever I’m on air with women’s football, how can we attract more viewers? How can we get more people to care? And frankly, how can we get more people to buy tickets? Which is not really something we’re thinking about in the men’s game, is it? So that’s not to say I’m a cheerleader at all on any level. And I think it’s really important that we call things as they are in women’s football.”

“I think the bar has risen now in terms of coverage of the women’s game. People don’t want to be hearing people saying, oh, she’s disappointed with that. And oh, that’s a shame. And oh, it’s a goalkeeper. Let’s not mention it, the goalkeeper. No, come on, we’ve moved beyond that.

“It’s fully professional now. And so I think critical analysis is important. So in terms of the difference between the two, I think really it’s a case of thinking who your audience is for that particular game.

“And when I do NWSL games in the United States on CBS main channel, then I would suggest the vast majority of the audience there are not really football stroke soccer fans at all. They are sports fans and we absolutely want to draw them in. Again, not something we really think about when it comes to men’s football.”

If you listen to one podcast this week then make it this one. The episode and previous episodes are available from all good podcast providers.

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