CEO of Tongue Tied Media and Director of Women in Football, Jo Tongue manages sports people, broadcasters and creates sports programmes and content. Here, she tells Women in Sport how her love of sport came about and how women currently working in sport have a responsibility to the next generation.
“So, do you like football then?”
If only I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked this question. I’ve started to lie about what I do now just so I don’t give sarcastic answers when it inevitably comes up. “I work in sales” doesn’t arouse as much suspicion.
The strange thing for me is it’s an absolute given that I like sport. It’s been part of my DNA since I was born. Sports day was big in our family. As were FA Cup and play off final days.
I remember my mum taking four of us, not yet teenagers, to Wembley on her own for the Spurs v Arsenal FA Cup semi-final. Nice, quiet, friendly atmosphere that one was for a woman and her children. We loved it (thanks to Gazza’s free kick!). Dad took us to Lords and we’d be given the papers and a picnic to sit quietly and watch the cricket in the sun. What else would we talk about around the dinner table if we didn’t have the day’s sport to discuss? It’s the same even now.
There were three women and three men in our house – it didn’t matter what sex you were, you are expected to participate in, and have an opinion on sport. So when people in the outside world would question if I knew anything about it, I used to laugh.
I don’t think it entered my head that I would work in anything other than sport. I was lucky as my Dad worked in the industry so I would watch him work, and tag along whenever I could to where he was going. I remember asking him once how everyone on the terraces at Spurs knew all these stats and facts – this was pre Sky Sports rolling news, pre twitter info overload) and he said: “Just read a broadsheet and a tabloid every day and I promise you’ll hear most lines repeated.” It’s something I still try and do now. I love print media, although nowadays I just hear Sky Sports News being quoted left right and centre in the stands! No one ever knows as much as you think they do. Everyone’s just talking (repeating) a good game.
When I was at University I got a job on the local radio station and worked on the breakfast show before going to work in McDonalds in the daytime. It wasn’t a glamorous entry into the industry! However I then joined the BBC through the BBC Talent scheme and got a job writing match reports for the website. From there I worked my way up, around, down and out to where I am today with my own Sports Broadcast agency and Production Company (Tongue Tied Media), managing sports people and broadcasters and making sports programmes and content.
I always believed that if you kept your head down and worked hard you would achieve what you wanted to achieve, but over the years I’ve seen so many talented young women fall out of the industry. I think they are often overlooked for opportunities because their face doesn’t fit. Sport is traditionally a male dominated world. Women who want to work in that world bring different qualities, opinions, and working styles to the domain and can challenge the way things are done. All of this to me is a good thing; yes we are different, we think differently, we work differently, but diversity is a great thing. It always means a more successful workplace.
If you all think the same and act the same, things will always be the same while the world changes around you. How about we just be the change ourselves?
I was lucky that the early influencers in my life let me love sport and it was a given the sports world was my world too. My family were those influencers. It’s important that we remember we are all influencers to people every day. Not everyone will have a Mum or Dad who think it’s normal for their daughter to work in football – they need outside influencers: women they can see doing jobs in sport which they had never even thought about; women they see making a change; women they see being positive role models. It’s why organisations like Women in Football (WiF) are so important. I’m a director of WiF and we work really hard to celebrate achievement, challenge discrimination and lobby for change, share contacts, advice and expertise and offer help and mentoring opportunities to the next generation.
Every single woman who works in sport is an influencer to the next generation and we have a responsibility to help them in to show them the sports world is theirs too.
But it goes without saying I’ll ask if they like football on their way in…