Sports broadcaster Eleanor Oldroyd
PUBLISHED: 15:34 18 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:59 20 February 2013
Sport broadcaster and Herefordshire Ambassador Eleanor Oldroyd got her break at Radio Wyvern, launching a career which has seen her covering all sorts of sports – from football at Hereford United to five Olympic Games, writes Rachel Crow
This sporting life
Sport broadcaster and Herefordshire Ambassador Eleanor Oldroyd got her break at Radio Wyvern, launching a career which has seen her covering all sorts of sports from football at Hereford United to five Olympic Games, writes Rachel Crow
Ive covered the extremes on BBC radio, from two Royal funerals and a Royal wedding to ice hockey in Telford, recalls Eleanor Oldroyd as we sit in the conservatory of her parents home in Hereford. It helps to be able to flannel, which is what a lot of sports presenting is about: filling the air between important points in the game.
Flannel or not, Eleanor has clearly got a knack for capturing a sporting moment and from her first stab at covering the cricket at Worcesters New Road ground as a fledgling journalist at Radio Wyvern in 1984, or interviewing Hereford Uniteds Graham Turner, to reporting on five and counting Olympics for the BBC, shes hasnt lost the passion for sport. Plus theres plenty still left for her to discover. I did the Derby from Epsom and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot this summer and absolutely loved them and its only at this stage in my career Im discovering a passion for horse racing, she smiles.
It was an obsession with cricket that initially steered Eleanor in the direction of sport reporting from a young age. My dad took me out of school for a day once to go and watch a match at Lords and wrote a letter to my headmistress saying I had a desire to be the first woman cricket correspondent for The Times, which was completely untrue, Eleanor says, but I thought that wouldnt be a bad thing to do, to get paid to watch cricket.
After more than 25 years covering numerous sporting events, cricket remains her number one love and she counts the day she saw England win the Ashes at the Oval 12th of September, 2005 as one of her happiest. She covered Test Match Special for five years and while she says this was a huge privilege, admits: It was quite a relief to stop because I think I felt I could start enjoying cricket again. Sometimes you dont get to enjoy sport the way youd like to when reporting on it.
Eleanor grew up just over the Shropshire border in Cleobury Mortimer. When she was 16 the family moved to Ledbury where her father, The Reverend Colin Oldroyd, who served within the Hereford diocese for 30 years, assumed the post of Rector of Ledbury and Eastnor.
When we first moved, Ledbury felt incredibly cosmopolitan in comparison to Cleobury Mortimer because it had a Boots and Chinese takeaway, she laughs.
Although she was away at school in Oxford during the week, Eleanor formed a strong friendship with the head girl of John Masefield School in Ledbury, where her mother, Anne, taught modern languages and as the daughter of a vicar and teacher naturally got involved with community activities.
Following journalism studies at Cambridge University, she was put in touch with the then editor of Radio Wyvern, David Holdsworth, by a vicar friend of her father who was the stations religious affairs producer.
I went in, initially, to do a weeks work experience and ended up staying for 18 months. It was the most fantastic experience and set me on the right road for my future career. I advise that route to students now when they contact me: to go and sponge off their parents for a year, like I did, and work at regional radio as its the best grounding you can have.
A few months in, the editor gave Eleanor her first sports break when he sent her to report on the cricket at New Road.
I was there in the press box, with all these male journalists who had been covering the cricket for about 30 years and never seen a women in the press box in their lives before. Every time I dialled in to give a report the room would fall silent, all listening. At about tea time on the first day, the guy sitting next to me said it sounds like you know what youre talking about. As if I wouldnt! she still bristles.
After a few more years, at Radio Shropshire, Eleanor moved to BBC Radio 1s Newsbeat and then in 1991 joined the BBC radio sport department, where she has since mostly been heard on Radio 5,
now 5 Live.
Eleanor confirms that as one of the first female sport presenters, she did feel under scrutiny and still does. I still feel the pressure is on you to get everything right because if you make a mistake, in my eyes, they view it in a completely different way to if a man slips up. But I covered my first Olympics in 1992 because they thought it would be good to have a female voice, so in that sense I think I came along at the right time to take advantage of a more open-minded attitude to women fronting
Differentiating herself from some of the glamorous women seen presenting on Sky Sports and the likes since the 1990s who see it as a stepping stone to other presenting posts, she took the sport seriously and as far as job opportunities are concerned has not missed out to her male counterparts.
While she lists many interests outside sport, it seems Eleanor will find it difficult leave that world behind. I will cover the 2012 Olympics, hopefully as part of Radio 5 Live and that will be my sixth Olympics so a bit of me thinks, possibly, I should consider doing something else after, but when people start talking about Rio in 2016 I know Ill want to be there. It is still a great privilege in my life.
Now living in London, Eleanor pops back to the county whenever work permits to visit friends or family, along with her daughters from her marriage to fellow sports journalist Nick Mullins, Rosie, nine, and ten-year-old Erin.
Since her father retired 15 years ago, her parents have lived on the outskirts of Hereford and are still very involved in the community. As recognition of his long service to the diocese her father was installed as a Prebendary at Hereford Cathedral. When youre used to being at the heart of the community, which you are as a vicar and teacher, to not be contributing in some way would be quite hard, she explains.
Eleanor has retained strong links with Herefordshire and is the first choice to cover sporting events in the county for Radio 5 Live.
Of being asked to be a Herefordshire Ambassador by Visit Herefordshire, she says: I think its fantastic and a really good concept. I think Herefordshire is still a bit of a hidden secret and Im happy to sing its praises to whomever. With my links to national media I can try and promote its cause, even if its just getting people to pronounce Leominster properly on the traffic reports!