Gabby's a sporting natural

As the furore over Match Of The Day's first female commentator Jacqui Oatley begins to die down, BBC sports presenter Gabby Logan reveals that she never felt like a trailblazer as a woman in the world of football.

As the furore over Match Of The Day's first female commentator Jacqui Oatley begins to die down, BBC sports presenter Gabby Logan reveals that she never felt like a trailblazer as a woman in the world of football. The mother of two also explains to Gemma Quade how she juggles her TV career with bringing up twins.

Almost two weeks ago, Jacqui Oatley made television history by becoming the first woman to commentate on BBC One's Match Of The Day.

The decision to use the 32-year-old former amateur footballer and Radio Five Live sports reporter caused uproar among traditionalists in the game.

But those opposers, such as Jimmy Greaves and Dave Bassett, seem to have forgotten all about former Durham student Gabby Logan, a female football presenter who has settled in so well during her years on the telly, nobody seems to mention her gender any more.

Despite the furore over Oatley's promotion, Gabby, the daughter of former Leeds player and Wales manager Terry Yorath, thinks women are becoming more accepted in sports TV.

"For me personally, because my dad was a well-known footballer and manager, I have always been into sport, so a sports-focused career never seemed like an unusual thing for me to want to get into," she explains.

"There are a good few female presenters doing a great job these days - people like Sue Barker and Claire Balding are popular with viewers and players alike. If you come across as someone who is knowledgeable and passionate then the fans will respect you."

Of course, it did take a while for Gabby to make her mark. She represented Wales as a gymnast at the 1990 Commonwealth games but had to retire from the sport aged just 17 due to painful sciatica.

She went on to study law at Durham University, and after graduating secured a job on Newcastle's Metro Radio, where she was noticed by Sky Sports, who promptly offered her a presenting role.

Gabby joined ITV in 1998 and covered events including the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Euro 2004, The Boat Race and the UEFA Cup, plus football highlights shows On The Ball and The Premiership.

But late last year, Gabby decided to quit ITV to join rivals BBC. It followed a disappointing World Cup for her which saw other presenters favoured in Germany, including Steve Rider, who was brought in as the main anchor.

"I interviewed David Beckham but I didn't see a single game," she said at the time. "It dented my confidence and made me question my abilities. If you've got ambition and you want to do well, it's obviously disappointing."

It was also reported that her former employers refused to let her take part in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing and asked her instead to appear in their show Dancing On Ice. She declined.

"I had some great times at ITV but obviously there always comes a point when it feels like it's time for a change," she now says diplomatically.

"Joining the BBC looks set to bring lots of really exciting opportunities and I'm looking forward to working with them for years to come. I'll be working across radio as well as television, and I recently filled in on the Radio Five Live Breakfast show, which was a great experience."

This week also saw her host her own new sports magazine show on BBC One, Inside Sport, a weekly programme she's been itching to get her teeth into.

"I'm very excited," she enthuses. "I love a new challenge."

Gabby's also hoping she'll be asked on to the next series of Strictly Come Dancing, revealing she's still a big fan of the show.

"I think it would be tremendous fun and would certainly keep me fit," the 34-year-old smiles. "I would love to learn to dance - it's something I've always wanted to do, but never had the time, so hopefully they will consider me at some point."

Whether she'll have time for all that training is another matter. Gabby and her husband, former Scotland rugby international Kenny Logan, have got their hands full with their twins Reuben and Lois, who are two in July. They were born in 2005 after Gabby underwent IVF treatment. It was a difficult birth and Gabby haemorrhaged badly, losing some 40% of her blood, but it's clear she relishes motherhood, despite having to balance it with her hectic career.

"I'm always very busy, but my children are my priority and I make sure that I spend as much time with them as possible. I also have great support from Kenny who helps out a lot, and we're lucky to have a really supportive group of friends and family who are always there for us if we need a bit of a break," she laughs.

Technology helps, too. Currently acting as the face of BT Broadband, Gabby says gadgets like their new Videophone are essential for keeping loved ones in the loop of her busy life.

"Kenny and I have an office and we're always on the lookout for any new gadgets that can help us keep things running smoothly. The latest one we've got is a BT Videophone. It's a broadband-enabled phone that allows you to see who you're talking to, so it's a nice way of catching up with friends and family, especially people you don't get to see regularly."

And what about hobbies? Does Gabby actually have any time to fit them in?

"Obviously I'm spending a lot of my spare time with my family right now," she confesses. "As any mum will tell you, having kids definitely limits your free time!

"But I like doing as much exercise as possible because keeping fit and healthy is very important to me. Being active as much as possible helps give me the energy I need to keep on top of work, family life and everything else in between!"

Aside from playing sport, Gabby also spends her "downtime" watching her beloved Newcastle United play, and despite having a Welsh father and Scottish husband, is still rooting for England to qualify for next summer's European Championships in Austria and Switzerland.

"Like everyone else, I'm always hopeful!" she grins. "England have some of the best players in Europe, like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, so if we qualify, I genuinely believe that we have every chance of being successful."

Whether or not Gabby is right remains to be seen, as does whether her childhood dream of presenting Newsnight will ever become a reality.

"Current affairs have always interested me, and obviously something like Newsnight would be an amazing opportunity for any presenter," Gabby says.

"I'm not sure Jeremy Paxman is ready for me to step into his shoes just yet though!"

* Gabby Logan presents BBC One's Inside Sport on Mondays at 11.05pm.


David Whetstone
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