Gabby Logan interview: Women's World Cup can be a watershed moment, just like London Olympics

Molly McElwee
Gabby Logan is heading the BBC's complete coverage of every single women's World Cup match - WARNING: Use of this copyright image is subject to the terms of use of BBC Pictures' Digital Picture

Gabby Logan says there are two moments that proved to her perceptions were changing towards women in sport. The first is part of the general consensus: London 2012 as a watershed moment, with the gold-medal success of athletes like Jessica Ennis-Hill and Nicola Adams instrumental. The second was a more personal instance. 

"My son loves his rugby and there was a moment for me in 2016 - he would have been 11 - he was watching the women’s Sevens final. I said something about women’s sport and he was like, 'What do you mean?' He genuinely just saw sport, and he didn’t see women playing rugby, he saw great sportspeople playing rugby.

"It was kind of like a similar moment in 2012 when they talked about Jonnie Peacock in the same breath as Usain Bolt, because they saw two great sprinters, they didn’t see his disability. I was like, 'Woah'." 

This summer is going to be comparably pivotal, she is sure, beginning with the Women's World Cup. What makes the difference to previous tournaments, Logan says, is the care being shown to illustrate a full picture of the journey teams have experienced ahead of the tournament which kicks off on Friday.

"In 2007 I covered the Women’s World Cup for the BBC. Then we started at the quarter-finals stage, we didn’t do warm-up matches, we didn’t do qualifying, we didn’t do the back story, the SheBelieves Cup. What we’ve been able to create now is a narrative in a lot of women’s sport, so it doesn’t just get thrown in, juxtaposed as 'here’s a women’s match'. People know what these women are doing in the WSL as well. It’s enormously exciting."

That Logan should be heading the BBC's complete coverage of every single World Cup match is fitting considering her role as one of the most recognisable faces in sports broadcasting - male or female. In the same way as the footballers at this year's tournament have witnessed the leaps and bounds made in their sport over the past few years, with multi-million pound investments into the Women's Super League from Barclays, record-breaking crowds and increased attention, so too has Logan been ever-present in sports broadcasting becoming a more representative platform for women. 

Last month the BBC announced their Change the Game coverage of women's sport this summer, complete with an entirely female line-up of presenters and pundits including Logan - two ideas that would have been alien when her career began at Sky Sports in 1996. She says inequality in her chosen field was all the more apparent to her because of her background in elite-level gymnastics.

"When I worked at Sky I was the lone wolf, the only she-wolf, and then at ITV there were very few women. There was nobody on screen, and there was hardly anyone in production. It was really strange for me to go into an area where I was like, 'we’ve got a few battles to fight here, there isn’t parity', as there was no sense of sexism in gymnastics, what I grew up in."

When Gabby Logan (left) started out there were very few women presenting sport Credit: pa

"Now I’ll do a Match of the Day where I’ve got Alex [Scott] sat next to me, I’ll have a female editor, female producer, female director even, and all the voices in my earpiece are female, so the landscape has changed dramatically."

Logan's wide-ranging work across some of the biggest sporting events in the world, including Six Nations rugby, Premier League football, women's football and athletics, requires a lot of juggling and she counts her law degree as helping her flit between it all. 

"I used to have a photographic memory, I did a law degree so you’re used to learning reams of stuff. I had a crazy weekend at the beginning of the year where I did rugby, football and athletics in the space of five days and that was a bit of a head rush. But you get used to it."

Logan's experience in covering men's sport means she can compare the nuances that exist, most notably in football. Her wish is that, as female players become household names, the women's game does not mimic the men's in losing the "unique accessibility" fans get. She also insists that those describing heightened attention and coverage as tokenism are mistaken.

"Things don’t just go on television because they have to, there’s a demand; you don’t put things on hoping they’re going to target an audience, you know they will. Fifteen or 20 years ago those sports might not have matched up to where they are now because of things like funding, professionalism, marketing, all those things. [Now] they’re achieving those levels.

"There’ll be a person asking why now? And it’s because there is no alternative - it has to be now."

Gabby Logan is part of the BBC’s Women’s World Cup team. Follow the World Cup on the BBC from June 7 across TV, radio and online.