Jules Breach: 'Gone are the days when female sports presenters are treated as eye candy'

BT Sport's Jules Breach talks exclusively to GiveMeSport Women

If you’re an avid follower of the Premier League, you’re likely also a fan of Jules Breach.

The 35-year-old has become one of the most popular football presenters in the country, appearing regularly on BT Sport, Premier League Productions and CBS.

Breach, who was born in Brighton but lived in Mauritius and Jamaica for parts of her childhood, is part of a new generation of presenters which has turned sports broadcasting on its head.

The likes of Breach, Alex Scott, Laura Woods and Kelly Somers are building on the foundations laid down by broadcasting veterans Sue Barker and Clare Balding. This generation is making female presenters in sport the norm, rather than the exception.

Breach’s broadcasting career actually began on a shopping channel. While finishing her university degree in media, Breach auditioned for the popular early noughties TV show T4, which launched the presenting careers of Jameela Jamil, Vernon Kay and Dermot O’Leary.

She got down to the last 10 girls in the country, and although she didn’t get the gig, she made a friend who worked on a shopping channel. When Breach graduated, she successfully auditioned for the same channel.

“I was literally chucked in at the deep end on live TV, on a shopping channel, and that’s where it all began really,” Breach tells GiveMeSport Women.

“I was learning everything there was to learn about working in live TV. So, things like having an earpiece in your ear and having to listen to the gallery.

“I didn’t know any of that stuff even existed before I worked at the shopping channel. It was all very new and an incredible learning experience.”

From there, Breach moved onto a local radio station, where she worked on the sports show. She describes herself as “lucky” that she faced little resistance to entering a male-dominated environment, and praises her boss at the time for his support.

“I think I probably came into it at a really good time. My boss at the local radio station was actually really keen to have a female voice on the sports show. And so if anything, he kind of pushed for it.

“As soon as there was an opportunity for me to cover the sports show, he gave it to me, and after covering it once I ended up doing that show for three years. That was really my first proper job as a sports broadcaster.”

Breach highlights another male ally who has been integral in her career – Mark Pougatch.

“My first kind of big role on mainstream TV was when I got the job at BT Sport, on BT Sport Score. I remember when I was told I was gonna be working with Mark Pougatch, I was literally like, ‘oh my god, this is gonna be amazing’.

“For me, as a football fan and a sports fan, he’s a broadcaster who I massively looked up to, and I always thought he was top of his game.

“He was so incredibly welcoming, and so down to earth. He talked about his experiences of getting his first break, and he was just so helpful.

“He always said to me: ‘Jules, we’re all still forever learning. I might have so many more years of experience in the industry, but I’m still learning every single day.’ He made me feel like no question was stupid.”

BT Sport's Jules Breach talks exclusively to GiveMeSport Women

Males allies have been a key part of the rise in female presenters in sport, but the progress made is also down to the hard work and determination of the women themselves. As a result, the landscape of sports media has changed irrevocably.

“Gone are the days where female broadcasters were put there for eye candy,” Breach agrees.

“It’s such an archaic view, but nowadays that has completely changed. I think that it’s so much more accepted now, that when you switch on your TV, it might be a female hosting that football match. Or it might be a male, and you’ll still get the exact same quality.

“I think even my role on BT Sport Score has changed from when I first started it six years ago. That might be a combination of things – it might be a combination of my experience levels and the way I’ve developed that role.

“But I know when I first started on the show, I wasn’t even on the main set. I was used on a separate set within the same studio. I would only be thrown to when they would come to me for specific hits. Whereas now I’m fully integrated into the show.”

Although they are becoming more commonplace, female presenters in sport are still more vulnerable to social media abuse.

Breach says she is “fortunate” to receive less abuse than other female presenters, but she has still noticed instances where she is treated differently to her male colleagues.

“I think as a female broadcaster in football, you are more heavily judged or criticised for mistakes or for opinions in comparison to your male counterparts.

“I could make the exact same mistake that my male co-host would. But the response on social media to it would be completely different.

“For example, in my second or third season on BT Sport Score, I celebrated a Brighton goal that was actually a replay on the monitors. And it was hilarious. I thought it was funny and I didn’t mind that BT Sport shared it on social media.

“I thought it was quite amusing and I can always laugh at myself and I think that live TV is like that – you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to have a bit of a chuckle at yourself. I think that’s how it should be, because sport is a fun place to sort of be.”

Breach continues: “But I was getting comments like ‘oh, look at this stupid girl celebrating a replay. She doesn’t know anything about football.’ You know, those kind of comments.

“Whereas when someone like Robbie Savage, Mark Pougatch or Chris Sutton did it, and they did all do it, the comments they get would just be like, ‘idiot, stupid’, but not this man shouldn’t be talking about football’.

“I think women can be judged differently. I don’t know if that’s necessarily changed, which is a shame.”

Nothing can stop Breach from being at the top of her game, however. Among her career highlights, she includes covering the Champions League final between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, and the Euro 2020 round of 16 clash between England and Germany.

What’s her ultimate presenting job? “A World Cup Final with England,” she laughs.

Breach may have to rely on England to perform at their best for that particular dream to come true. But if they do, she will surely be one of the first picks to present match day coverage, such is her talent.

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