Leeds United: LUTV’s Emma Jones speaks to the YEP about life as a woman in the football media spotlight

Emma Jones.
Emma Jones.

Football might not be coming home but the English game has still had its fair share of winners at the World Cup.

Gareth Southgate is one, thanks to his cool-headed stewardship of a Three Lions campaign that far exceeded expectations.

Emma Jones with former Leeds United player Danny Mills at Elland Road.

Emma Jones with former Leeds United player Danny Mills at Elland Road.

Yorkshire’s reputation as a hotbed of sporting talent is another, with players such as Fabian Delph, Danny Rose, John Stones and Harry Maguire all hailing from the White Rose county.

The list of winners also includes Jacqui Oatley and Leeds’s own Gabby Logan, two presenters who have starred on screen during a tournament when the BBC and ITV have both given women more prominent roles in their coverage than ever before.

Another female broadcaster with a soaring profile is Emma Jones, who has been one of the faces of Leeds United’s in-house LUTV television station since last summer.

And, with the final of the World Cup being played this weekend and a new domestic football season just around the corner, she has been speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post about her experiences working in what some still, sadly, regard as solely a man’s game.

Emma Jones at the England versus Costa Rica game.

Emma Jones at the England versus Costa Rica game.

Emma describes her LUTV role as a dream job and, from day one, has encountered nothing but positivity and support from inside Elland Road – yet, in the sport as a whole, she acknowledges a few issues remain.

“Being a woman in a predominantly male environment – and the other way round as well, if it was a man in a predominantly female environment – you can come across challenges,” she says.

“The way I see it is, it’s not a slight on you, it’s their issue and you just crack on.

“I feel like there is a shift happening now and there is a huge focus on getting women involved in football and other sports broadcasting.

“It is still a very male world, but it is changing. People are more careful – as a rule, they think before they speak now.”

One man still apparently afflicted by foot-in-mouth syndrome is Jason Cundy, a presenter for talkSPORT radio who last month was forced to apologise after saying women should not commentate on football matches because their voices are too high-pitched.

Speaking after Vicki Sparks became the first woman to commentate live on a televised World Cup game in the UK, Cundy said: “I prefer to hear a male voice when watching football – 90 minutes of hearing a high-pitched tone isn’t really what I would like to hear, and when there is a moment of drama as there often is in football, the moment actually needs to be done with a slightly lower voice.”

Giving her take on the row, Emma says: “He apologised for it, so I’m guessing he knows he probably shouldn’t have said that – and the fact it was jumped on straight away shows the positive shift away from that attitude.

“He was shut down and I think that’s a great thing to take from it, it’s a prime example of the world we live in now.

“Someone says something, people react to it, point out that it’s not a fair thing to say and then there is an apology. I’d like to think he knows he shouldn’t have said it.”

The backlash against Cundy was particularly fierce on social media and Emma believes the response showed how Twitter and the like can, despite the negative press they attract, still be a force for good.

“Clearly, social media has its bad points, but it has also allowed people to self educate and learn more about other people,” she says.

“We are now in a society that is far more accepting of people branching out and doing things they stereotypically wouldn’t have done once upon a time.

“I think people are a lot more conscious of the fact that everyone deserves an opportunity to do what they want in life.”

Emma was given a first-hand insight into the power of social media when she caught the eye of TV viewers while sitting in the stands during England’s World Cup warm-up game against Costa Rica at Elland Road at the start of June.

Images of her quickly went viral on Twitter, with some fans complaining that she looked less than interested in the action on the pitch.

“It was bizarre – I was there working for the FA and hosting, so I was sat near the dugout as I needed to jump onto the pitch at half-time to do interviews,” she says.

“I had no idea I had been on TV during the game – when there’s 36,000 people in the ground, the phone signal isn’t great, so no one could contact me.

“When I was walking back to my car at the end of the night, my phone started dinging like crazy. I panicked – I was thinking ‘what has gone on?’.

“It was one of those things. People were asking if I was bored and I wasn’t, I was genuinely concentrating!

“It was weird more than anything, because I had been excited for months and months about hosting for the FA and then it was a bit like no one was bothered about that side of it.

“I wanted to remind people why I had been there – but I also knew that after 24 hours it was all going to blow over.”

Many of the comments on social media on the night of the Costa Rica game focused on Emma’s looks, while a story that appeared in The Sun described her as “stunning” and “the blonde” who had “transfixed” viewers at home.

“I don’t take it seriously if people want to pass comment on my looks or anything,” she says.

“If I let myself get absorbed with some of the comments then I would probably spend a year crying.

“I take it all with a pinch of salt. When people say you have done a good job, those are the kind of comments I take on board.

“As I say, social media can be amazing for opening up new worlds, but it does give people a platform to say what they want so you have to almost remove yourself from it and say, well, that’s just your opinion, end of.”

Emma, who combines her LUTV role with breakfast show presenting duties on Stoke-based radio station Signal 1, will be back at Elland Road for the start of the season next month.

She admits she might have to brush up on her foreign language skills before then, with new Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa coming from Argentina and his English still a work in progress.

But the six million dollar question is, of course, whether this will be the year when Leeds are finally promoted back to the top flight of English football.

“It would be amazing if we were,” says Emma.

“But I don’t want to say too much, I don’t want to put them under too much pressure!

“I am a Leeds fan now. You can’t go to Elland Road and not be.

“I love the job, I genuinely love it. I feel privileged to be doing it as well.

“It’s the people you meet and the stories they tell and the passion they have.

“As soon as I started at LUTV, it was obvious why people have such a love for the club.

“I turned up and by week two I was screaming louder than anyone in the South Stand!”

Emma, who is originally from Cheshire and studied journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, names Gabby Logan – the daughter of former Leeds United star Terry Yorath – as one of her broadcasting inspirations.

“She is amazing – she’s humble and real and very well respected.

“I admire everyone who does this job, really. It’s not an easy world to get into or stay in.”