TNT Sports Presenter, Lynsey Hipgrave, is an inspirational role model, paving the way for young women looking to make a career in the sports industry. In a recent chat with Nicole Wood, she opens up about the difficulties of working as a woman in sports, growing up in Newcastle and her predictions for the Women’s World Cup…
To think that once upon a time, women couldn’t even have a career in journalism let alone within the sports industry, it’s refreshing to see how far we’ve come.
Although that being said, it’s not been an easy ride and for some, it still isn’t.
I think it’s fair and quite accurate to say, we’ve still got a while to go, but we’re certainly heading in the right direction. Now, when the younger generation switch on their TVs, they see women presenting on mainstream channels for big sporting events. For them, it’s ‘normal’, it inspires, encourages and allows them to dream and believe that could be them one day.
For Lynsey Hipgrave, that wasn’t the case.
Growing up, she didn’t have many of those role models and had to rely on her own knowledge and determination to get her where she is today.
“As a woman in the industry I think it’s been a longer journey to get where I am and I’ve had to fight for my place and work even harder to prove myself, but I always knew I was capable and knowledgeable,” Lynsey opens up.
“The opportunities weren’t always there to start with and I had few female role models aside from Gabby Logan, Hazel Irvine and Eleanor Oldroyd, who were an inspiration to me.
“It has only been in the last few years that women are well represented in the industry and I now work alongside some brilliant female pundits, commentators, directors and producers, with women hosting top level sport on all the major channels.
“I think it’s much easier for young women coming into the industry now as there are more opportunities, more platforms and crucially more role models. Unless you see other women doing it then you might not believe it’s a real possibility for you,” she adds.
During our chat, I tell her how as a viewer, the chemistry between her and the pundits is excellent; they always appear to be having a laugh and there is a tonne of mutual respect.
“I genuinely love the people I work with and I’m really glad to hear that it comes across on air. I spend most Saturdays with them and we all get on brilliantly. There are no divas, everyone’s just laid back, relaxed and very easy to work with. They’re just good guys who also happen to be legends who have played at the very highest level.
“They all have an ‘ask me anything’ attitude which makes my life very easy. There’s a lot of ribbing but we all dish it out and we can all take it,” she smiles.
To hear that what we see on screen is the same as what goes on behind the scenes is music to my ears, echoing my thought that we really have come a long way.
We go on to discuss how sometimes a lot of the hate for women working in this male-dominated industry can actually come from angry fans on social media who don’t always agree with a woman’s opinion, something Lynsey discussed in a campaign to stop online hate for BT Sport back in 2021. But learning to block out the trolls, staying true to what she believes in and having confidence in the knowledge she holds, is what keeps Lynsey driving forward.
Lynsey is a born and bred Geordie lass, who always had ambitions of working within the radio and television industry. Growing up, sports – and football in general – was a huge part of her childhood. She tells me trips to St. James’ Park with her dad and brother were a permanent fixture in her calendar.
“I grew up obsessed with football watching the great entertainers and was always going to matches with my Dad and older brother. I always wanted to work in radio and television so to be able to combine that with my passion and love for football is a dream come true.
“Working on the Premier League has been a career highlight – it is without doubt the best league in the world! The quality of the matches and storylines have you gripped every single week,” she says.
“I’m still NUFC obsessed. I couldn’t have scripted it any better could I?! Fronting the Premier League coverage in the season Newcastle make it back to the Champions League after 20 years has been a dream come true.
“I loved watching us this season, we’ve just been so consistently good from start to finish and absolutely deserved that top four finish. Yes we’ve been solid at the back but I’ve been so impressed with the intensity and the way we take the game to teams, no matter who we’re playing.
“Not a single team would go into a game against Newcastle now and expect an easy ride and we haven’t been able to say that for a long time. I’m such a big fan of Eddie Howe and on the occasions that I have met him he has come across as classy, considerate and intelligent. He’s a fantastic representative of our club and has shown everyone what a top class coach he is, with the improvement in so many players testament to that.
“I’m so excited for the transfer window and for next season to see how we build on this. I’ll have the popcorn ready and be glued to the Champions League draw as I’m sure we’ll have a couple of glamour ties in there to get us all going potty,” she laughs.
“I grew up in Dunston and Whickham, but when I was 18 I left for Leeds University where I studied broadcast journalism which was the starting point for my career working in radio.
“In the early days I co-hosted the breakfast show on Galaxy 102 in Manchester before moving to London to pursue my ambition of working in sports broadcasting at BBC Radio 5 Live. I then moved into TV with Setanta Sports and BeIn Sports before signing for BT Sport, which has now rebranded to TNT sports,” she adds.
“I’m happily settled with my husband and step daughter in West Sussex, but the rest of my family still live in Newcastle so I visit as much as I can. Newcastle United will always be a great love of mine,” she laughs.
The love Lynsey has for her job is evident, her face lights up when discussing some of those ‘pinch me’ moments: “I was lucky enough to work on the World Cup in Brazil for ESPN so I spent six wonderful weeks in Rio. I have also loved presenting Champions League and Europa League games, which have taken me to some of the best cities and stadiums in Europe.
“Presenting a match in front of the 10 thousand strong Yellow Wall in Dortmund literally gave me goosebumps! Jermaine Jenas and I couldn’t hear a word we were saying to each other but we didn’t care, it was all about the atmosphere. London 2012 is also etched in my memory as an event that was non-stop, frenetic fun and a privilege to be part of.
“Broadcasting live on ‘Super Saturday’ was full of special moments I’ll never forget. I’ve worked so hard to get here but I know how lucky I am and regularly have ‘I love my job’ moments.
“I’ve been hosting Premier League football every Saturday for the last year, which has been a career highlight. It’s a fantastic team and the atmosphere on match days is electric. I definitely feel lucky to work alongside great ex pro’s like Rio, Peter and Joe and we always have a good laugh. Our WhatsApp group before and after games can be very lively,” she laughs.
“I’m so excited to continue in the same role when the season starts again this August. We’ll be broadcasting 52 games over the season and I can’t wait to be back on the road every week soaking up the atmosphere and following what’s bound to be another compelling season. I will also be covering some European games and keeping a very close eye on Newcastle’s Champions League adventure.
“Watching live football every week and calling it work is a feeling like no other. Also the teamwork and team spirit on match days. I work alone a lot when I’m doing my research and preparation so I just love being part of such a big team when it comes to the live broadcasts.
“Just like team sports there are so many people involved in the coverage and I work with some of the very best both in front of and behind the camera. Everyone’s role is so vital, from the runners to the directors, and you can feel the excitement and the anticipation building just before we go on air with everyone determined to do their bit to make sure the show goes as smoothly as possible,” she explains.
Lynsey is an absolute delight to chat with, I could speak to her for hours. As we discuss all things journalism, making it in a male-dominated industry and our love for Newcastle, we move the topic on to women’s sports and the excitement we have for the upcoming women’s World Cup.
“The women’s game in this country has grown so much and it’s great to see that progress. The Euro’s win was pivotal and the FA Cup final was just another statement and another marker of how far we’ve come, but of course I think there’s still a long way to go.
“The interest is clearly there and now it’s about keeping on growing the profile and making sure that all girls have the opportunity to play should they want to, with more money filtering down into the grassroots game. What gives me lots of hope that the trajectory will continue is the amount of kids and young people at matches now because they’re the players and the audiences of the future,” Lynsey expresses.
“I’m really looking forward to the Women’s World Cup and can’t wait to see if the team can push on after the Euro’s which was a huge success on and off the pitch. The Lionesses changed the perception of women’s football in this country and everyone got caught up in it.
“As a small example I watched my husband getting into the games, being impressed by the quality of the matches and fully getting behind the team – and that happened all over the country.
“The players all said afterwards that this is just the start so hopefully we can keep the momentum going. It’s a bigger stage and the injuries add extra pressure and probably lower expectations a bit. An England v USA final would be the dream as they’re on different sides of the draw,” she adds.
When looking to escape from all things ‘camera, lights, action’, Lynsey finds herself heading back up north to spend time with her family: “I love coming home. My favourite thing to do is just catch up with family and spend time at my Mam and Dad’s. If I’m there on a weekend I love going to see my nephews playing football.
“I also love walking along the Quayside on a Sunday if the weather is good or having a drive down to Tynemouth and walking along the seafront. My Mam and Dad recently took me to the Lit and Phil library beside Central Station which blew my mind, it’s such a hidden gem. I can’t believe I had walked past it so many times and had no idea it was there!
“When I’m not working or heading back up north, it’s usually fitness and travel that takes up most of my time. It usually involves a gym or yoga class. I love travelling – everyone at work calls me Judith Chalmers because any opportunity myself and my husband get we head off on another adventure. We had a long break during the pause for the World Cup so we took the opportunity to behave like backpacking teenagers and travelled through Thailand and Laos for a month, which was the most incredible experience,” she adds.
Lynsey is a prime example of what hard work and determination look like. Before saying goodbye, we revert back to discussing childhood dreams and what it would be like to go back and tell those little dreamers ‘we made it’. Work hard, don’t be scared to try something new and believe that knowledge is power is just some of the wonderful advice Lynsey gives to those looking to make it in the sports industry.
“My advice to someone looking to start a career in sports journalism would be to go for it! Get as much experience as you possibly can and keep knocking on doors until somebody gives you an opportunity.
“Often it’s a case of getting a foot in the door so you’re in a position where you can work your way up so you have to be prepared to put in the groundwork.
“Try out different roles, there are so many other jobs in the industry that I wasn’t even aware of when I was studying and it’s so important to understand and appreciate the roles of everybody on the team.
“For me, preparation is so important because with live sport you just never know when something will go wrong or change and you could end up ripping the whole running order up and filling for an hour. Oh and as Joe Cole always says to us just before we go on air ‘don’t forget to enjoy it’,” she smiles.
A true inspiration offering a beacon of light to those looking to find their way in a career path that defies all odds. Lynsey Hipgrave is a name us folk from the North East are exceptionally proud of.