In the latest edition of BCOMS’ features, Nigel Wallace speaks to the BBC One Final Score editor, Louise Sutton. Louise reveals her route into the industry and gives us the breakdown of a typical Saturday afternoon on the show.
Louise is a fantastic journalist and producer who is well respected amongst her peers. She has spent over a decade working for the BBC in a number of different roles for radio stations including Radio 5 live, Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra.
How soon did you become aware of your passion for sports journalism and that it was the career you wanted to pursue?
“I would say that my passion for journalism probably started when I was able to talk. There’s nothing I like more than to ask people questions – sometimes I feel like I’m interrogating them and I’m sure they feel the same! But I’ve always just asked a lot of questions and been interested, yet curious, about a lot of different things.
“Listening to the radio, reading newspapers and watching TV news was always a really big thing growing up. But I’m from a single parent family and my mum wasn’t really into sport as much, although she was into Formula 1 a bit. My dad used to take me to cricket on a Saturday morning but I got into football once I was at university. My flatmate boyfriend played for Arsenal youth so I wanted to have a little bit of rivalry in the flat – I loved Gianluca Vialli, the former Chelsea player!
“I studied a communications degree which involved quite a bit of media studies. After university I got a six-week placement at Radio 1 Newsbeat and it was then I realised that a career in journalism was where I wanted to be. It took me a few years to earn my stripes and to make the move into sport, I suppose.”
Give us a brief insight into your journey within the industry and how your career led you to your role as editor of BBC One Final Score?
“I was offered a six-week work experience placement at Radio One Newsbeat as a broadcast assistant and I just worked exceptionally hard. In the four years at Newsbeat I went from a BA to a researcher, to a broadcast journalist on BBC Radio 1Xtra news. Newsbeat were launching a new programme and I volunteered to go to the World Athletics Championships and for 10 or 12 days I was there providing lots of inserts and interviews.”
“So I got to do my first big sports event on my own and it was just phenomenal! I had such a great time; I worked 17-hour days and met so many people. I developed an eye for it so much so that when I got back I started working a day a week for free at BBC Radio Essex in the sports department.”
Louise’s career continued to blossom over the next six months and she was offered the role of an Assistant Producer (AP), at Radio 5 live sport. She went on from being an AP to a producer and then tennis producer – later travelling on tour for 2.5 years, covering the four majors; Wimbledon, French Open, US Open and Australian Open.
“I think I’ve just always loved a story and live sport. Live sport is one thing I think we’ve still got that people tune in for – because anything else you can watch online or just record. But we will still want to know who crossed the line first in the Grand National or who scored the winning goal in the FA Cup final. It’s just that one thing that we can all still get behind, I suppose.”
Louise has witnessed some of the world’s biggest sporting events, including the World Cup, Olympic Games and Wimbledon. With all her experiences working in radio, Louise was in need of a break and decided to go travelling for two years. On her return she quickly established her television experience.
“I’ve always worked in radio and I realised that I needed a break, so I went travelling for two years and left everything completely. When I came back I realised that my TV experience was lack so I came back and freelanced in radio because it’s where I knew people and I knew I could get a job. Overtime I tried to move into TV and get some experience at IMG and Premier League TV. So when the opportunity for the Final Score job was advertised I was in a good position because I’d had a good background in sport, news, television, radio and online. I wouldn’t say the process was easy but thankfully I got it and it’s been brilliant and the programme I make is so fun.”
We asked Louise to give an insight into what a typical Saturday afternoon on Final Score would entail. She described live production of radio or television programmes as “the best buzz you’ll ever get, it’s exhausting but equally fantastic and absolutely brilliant!”
“The Saturday afternoon is a culmination of hard work, I would say! Finding reporters is key; reporters of a good standard who are able to offer me what I‘m looking for, in terms of Final Score. Keeping the presenters happy, ensuring that I’m aware of what stories are going on and making sure that the whole team knows what we’re hoping to achieve out of the programme. For a television programme they are a lot more people involved than there would be on a radio programme. So they are 20 to 30 people working towards Final Score, from the presenter to production co-ordinator.
Louise’s breakdown of a typical Saturday afternoon on Final Score:
“At 3pm it all just goes mad! It just depends where there’s a goal or a story and we just keep going. So we’ll normally have a reporter at every single Premier League and Championship game and then we’ll have one in Leagues One and Two reporting on the biggest games and potentially one in Scotland. So we could have up to 20 reporters all shouting at the ISTN guy with updates on their particular game – at the same time we’d try to let the pundits in to have their say at some point in the afternoon and that goes on from 3pm until 5pm.
“At around 4:30pm I need to be having a conversation with VT and my director on what the biggest stories are. After the classifieds at 5pm I’ll need to make a decision about who I want to hear from in terms of interviews and which reporter I want at which game that reflects what the biggest stories are of the day… and then at 5:30pm we breathe. So you basically make a decision every five seconds for two and half hours!”
Tell us more about your involvement with the documentary “The Blind Faithful” and where the idea originated?
“The idea came from my television presenter Jenny Gow. She had been at Silverstone and she was listening to a phone-in on Radio 5 live called “Slick face Slick” and basically a blind man had rung in to say how much he’d loved the F1 commentary. So she went to Mike Carr; the editor of Radio 5 live sport and suggested that we should do a programme on blind sports fans. I was freelance at the time and Mike explained the idea to me and asked if I wanted to make it. I said I thought it would be brilliant. The research was just unbelievable – weeks and weeks of contacting sports organisations, blind organisations and charities, trying to find people who love sport but were blind or visually impaired.
“In the end I was able to come up with a load of people who just had this magnificent way of expressing how much they loved sport, despite never being able to see it. Some of them had lost their sight so they knew what it was like to lose it. On the other hand, you had some who’d never seen it, trying to imagine what it looks like and explaining it to us. It just blew me away! It was such a brilliant project to be involved in. We had a tennis fan, a cricket fan and some football fans. We got the correspondents in each sport that they listen to all the time to interview them, which they loved.”
If you could go back in time to offer yourself a piece of advice as an aspiring journalist, what would it be and why?
“I think I would say I would have liked to have worked at more places earlier on in my career. I immediately went from university to travelling for six months, then came back and my first job in the media was with the BBC. I was there for 10 years going from Radio One, 1xtra, Sport, 5 live – they were a variety of different jobs, as well as with a lot of different people. But I just think once I left the BBC and was working for Premier League TV, BT and many different organisations as freelance, that it just gave a more rounded view. I would just say give yourself as many opportunities as early as you can and say no to nothing – because you don’t know what you’re going to like.”