In an exclusive interview, the sports reporter opens up about her experiences and inspirations in the world of football, and some of the challenges she has had to overcome to get to where she is today.
Olivia Buzaglo is beaming. Her team, Chelsea, has just won three nil against Newcastle United in the fourth round of the FA Cup. A sea of blue is visible outside the local Pret A Manger as Chelsea fans enter Fulham Broadway Shopping Centre. The area itself is noisy and crammed with people.
While the average person would probably feel out of place in such a crowded and tense environment, the experience feels perfectly normal for Olivia, a sports reporter and media coordinator at IMG Studios. Nonetheless, she explains that such situations in the sport are not always pleasant for women, in particular. “There are some things that people say that have upset me,” she says. “As a woman wanting to work in the sport that just comes with it.”
A ballet dancer growing up, she reveals that being a part of such a sport-oriented family inspired her to trade-in her ballet shoes for a pair of football boots. “My dad played semi-professionally and I always used to go to his friend’s house to watch all of the games,” she says. “Somehow, I grew such a passion and love for the sport where it became the only thing I ever wanted to do.”
Thanks to the inspiration of her father, Olivia loves working in the industry that she’s so passionate about. “There aren’t many women in football so I wanted to change the stereotype and show people that women actually know what they’re talking about,” she says.
After graduating from her Media Arts degree at St Mary’s University College, Olivia’s dedication and hard work allowed her to find her dream job after being hired by IMG Studios, home of the Premier League Productions. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself because it doesn’t feel like work, and I love it,” she says.
After nearly two years in employment, she reveals that she has met childhood idols including Chelsea legends John Terry and Frank Lampard as well as sports presenter Hayley McQueen. “Meeting someone who you’ve looked up to for years and years is just incredible,” she later says.
However, Olivia says that there are plenty of challenges for women working in sport, particularly in football. “There’s always going to be sexism, there’s always going to be men who think women aren’t good enough and shouldn’t be speaking about their sport,” she says. “I’ve got to come to terms with the fact that there are going to be people out there that don’t like women in football but you have to have a thick skin.
While she reflects on some of the abuse she has received on social media that has affected her mentally, she goes on to say that her feelings about these negative incidents have slowly healed and improved over time.
A survey by the ‘Women in Football’ network showed just how difficult it can be for women. The final published report from 2016 discovered that 24% of women working in football had suffered some kind of bullying and also that 61% of respondents had experienced or witnessed sexism in some form, at work. In addition to this, the report also cited numerous anonymous sources from women, offering first-person perspectives on how some females are treated by their male colleagues in this environment.
As the crowd and noise begins to disperse, Olivia says women need more opportunities for commentating and presenting to reduce the sexism that is currently present in the game. “The more they do that the fewer people are going to complain about it because it will become normal. As for myself, I can’t make that change but I really want women to be more involved,” she says. “I know Hayley McQueen does a lot of Scottish programmes on Sky Sports which helps. Kelly Cates does Friday Night Football and she’s brilliant, she’s just as good, if not better than some of the male presenters. If you talk to any male player, pundit, or commentator they’ll always be for-women and women in football.”
Although working in the sport brings its challenges, it also offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and experiences. Olivia reveals the rollercoaster ride of emotions she felt when she was allowed to cover her first “top six” fixture – a thrilling encounter between Arsenal and Liverpool that resulted in a 3-3 draw. “Being around the tunnel when the players are there and in the interview room afterwards sitting behind a bench, it’s just an atmosphere and thrill you never forget,” she says.
Olivia also discusses how she was invited to travel to Cobham Training Centre, the training ground of her beloved Chelsea, and how she was able to talk to some of the players as well as the manager, Antonio Conte. “It was really a standout moment because I’m a Chelsea fan,” she says. “There’s nothing better than going to see your team, seeing your players, and talking to your manager.”
Watching the pale grey sky transition to dusk, Olivia begins to pack her things and offers some words of advice to women who want to follow in her footsteps. “If you’re passionate enough about something and want to do it then I’d suggest just going for it, who cares what anyone else thinks,” she says. “If you know your stuff and you’re passionate about something then you have to go for it. There will be no’s and you will get turned down, but you just have to carry on and you’ll eventually get there.”
“If you work hard enough, you can get anywhere.”