Abby Rugg

Name: Abby Rugg
Qualification: Gold Standard NCTJ Multi-Media Journalism Diploma. (Including 100 words-per-minute shorthand)
Employment: Worked at BBC Sport and Deltatre for London 2012.
Future Aim: To work in broadcast/production television.
Blog: Started in November 2011. Published on The Sports Investor and Value Horse Tips. Please comment on a post or follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Since Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ sexist off-air comments about female referee Sian Massey the media has been under constant scrutiny and subject boards such as the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) should be doing more to encourage potential sports writers, particularly women, to gain a sports journalism qualification.
As a journalist who wants to report on horse racing, I find it disheartening to see that the NCTJ do not do enough for potential sports writers like myself who believe football is a male-dominated sport and still has issues surrounding sexism.


Fifty per cent of the overall mark in the NCTJ sports journalism exam is given to reports written about a football match, not one seen in live play, but one that has been televised before giving knowledgeable football writers, particularly men, a greater advantage.

Jacqui Oatley battled criticism when she was first announced as BBC Match of the Day’s first female commentator and she expressed her views on the matter: “I think that if the exam has put people off then that’s wrong, we need to be encouraging females. If you genuinely have women who are really into sport but football’s not really their thing I think it’s wrong if they’re discouraged from taking the course.”
Jacqui said that she didn’t agree with the exam having 50 per cent of the marks on a football report but she understood why the NCTJ structures it that way as it is the dominant sport of the country.

She added that if someone wants to write about other sports rather than football, there should be no reason for the NCTJ to provide footage of different sports to report on.

As an aspiring sports journalist, I have no interest in football and therefore encourage NCTJ to provide more coverage of other sports, so that potential sports journalists who dislike football are given a greater chance of gaining a sports writing qualification. Jacqui agreed with this idea.

I complained to the NCTJ board directly about the high emphasis the syllabus and exam place on football, claiming that it is lazy and unfair.

The NCTJ Chief Examiner for Sports Journalism gave the following feedback to my complaint: “To work in any sports department, you need to have a basic knowledge of football. We work in multimedia newsrooms which require the ultimate flexibility. That is the foundation of any sports journalist.”

When asked if candidates of the exam could be given a choice of sports to report on, such as tennis or hockey, as they get equal coverage and therefore equally appealing to both men and women. The Chief Examiner said: “We have looked at other options; swimming, tennis, speedway, athletics, but for the part A exam [worth 50 per cent], we require a sport which runs for 90 minutes or so, and which lends itself to a two-part report.”

photoPhoto taken by Arkle1 Janet Benoy  on December 2, 2006 using a Canon EOS 350D Digital. (Taken from Flickr)


There are other sports that have the duration of around 90 minutes and even though football may be the dominant sport in this country, it should not dominate the NCTJ sports journalism syllabus and exam.

As Jacqui said, it seems strange that 50 per cent of the marks go on a football related question when that is not what everyone wants to do.

This article will be published in Broadcast Magazine. Many thanks to Jacqui for allowing me to give an interview.

Link to Broadcast magazine:

Hold the Front Page: 


  1. Hi Abby,

    I'm slightly puzzled by your argument. You imply that it's sexist for the NCTJ to ask students taking its sports exam to write about football. Whereas it seems to me - as the examiner puts it - reasonable for aspiring sports journalists to write about the national sport.

    I sympathise if football isn't your thing - but this sounds like more a case of football's inescapable media dominance than discrimination, which is a charge the NCTJ doesn't deserve.

  2. Hi Patrick,

    Thank you for your comment. What I am trying to say is that I want the NCTJ to offer candidates more sports to report on. They do not have to offer every sport, but a selection of sports that appeal equally to both men and women.
    I understand that they want journalists to write about football is a national sport, and the most popular one at that. But as it appeals to men more than women (approx 33-34% of spectators of the sport are female) then I believe the examining board should provide a wider range of sports, as well as football.
    Thank you again for showing an interest in the piece.

  3. Hi Abby, I agree a wider range would be better for sure.

    Would you be interested in doing some articles for
    us at (the oldest tennis results website in the world).

    We get around 5000 unique hits a day (20,000 page views) so would be great to have you involved.

    Let me know if you think we can collaborate together. Maybe you know other people who would be interested as well?

    Best regards and good luck with your exams, James

    you can contact me at james At