Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is Sky Sports Presenter, Bela Shah!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Bela Shah and I’m a presenter at Sky Sports News. I’ve been at Sky since the end of 2018 – my first shift was on New Year’s Eve! Previously, I worked as a freelance presenter / reporter at several places including Channel 5, BBC Radio 1, talkSPORT and Premier League Productions to name a few! Before journalism, I was a lawyer at ITV Sport.
What do you do in your current role?
I get into work a few hours before I’m due on air. I have a look at the stories we’re covering and chat to the producers about the running order. We usually present in twos (pre Covid) so I’ll catch up with my co-presenter. Then I will get changed into my on air clothes and head to hair and make up. Once they’ve worked their magic, I’m good to go. We usually present live for three or four hours. Sport is never short of breaking news and drama and that’s what I love. Plus it’s fun to be able to work alongside such a brilliant team of presenters, producers, directors, floor managers and more – everyone is great.
What does a normal week look like for you?
I don’t have a set shift pattern so I could be working on an early shift, during the day or a late shift. I work a nine day fortnight – it can be any nine days. We work a lot of weekends but that’s when the action is so I enjoy it. I don’t really have a “normal” week as my working days are different each week. That makes it fun because each day / time requires different skills. For some shifts, I will be updating live sport and for others, I might be chatting to studio guests. I also enjoy working with different co-presenters and I’ve learned something different from each one.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I’ve always loved football, I used to watch the World Cup with my dad and then I started following the Premier League. We also used to watch cricket and athletics together. I played netball right through to university and I was a keen swimmer. I didn’t really think it would be viable to work in sport or broadcasting – I thought it would be too competitive and I couldn’t really see a path for me to get there.
So originally I studied law at university and qualified as a solicitor. I worked in the legal department at ITV Sport which was amazing because I was able to combine two of my interests – law and sport. Working in a broadcast environment, made me realise I wanted to try and see if I could switch sides to on screen. I’ve always watched Sky Sports News and would watch Deadline Day with my dad.
Presenting on Sky Sports News was my ultimate dream job but honestly not something I thought would happen. My parents and partner encouraged me to give it a try and they have always believed in me and supported me. They really inspired me to quit my job as a lawyer and train as a broadcast journalist. I did a postgraduate diploma in Broadcast Journalism. I gained lots of work experience and started freelancing at various commercial radio stations.
I then got a job at the BBC where I also managed to do some TV packages. That really confirmed that I wanted to be in TV so I started freelancing again. That led me to Channel 5 News where I did my first live TV bulletins and reporting. I contacted Sky Sports News and was offered some shadow shifts. During that time, I did a screen test and at the end of my shadowing I was offered freelance shifts presenting sport bulletins on Sky News. A few months later, I did my first presenting shift on Sky Sports News which was a dream come true.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I’m excited that sport is back! It looks and sounds different but the drama is still there. Of course there are far more important things going on in the world right now but sport can be an escapism for many people. I’m also very proud of the fact that sport is using its huge platform as a force for good and speaking out against racism not only in sport but also in wider society. Sport has the power to reach audiences other news outlets often don’t. The industry is using its voice to take a stand up against racism, which I believe is absolutely vital.
What advice would you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Here are THREE top tips!
Persevere. It takes time which can be frustrating. But perserverance separates those who really want it with those who don’t.
Work hard. It is a highly competitive industry and you have to be prepared for long unsociable hours and 24/7 dedication. It’s a very fast paced industry so you have to be on top of it. But if you love sport that should be easy.
Be kind. It’s a small industry so maintain a good reputation because you will meet people again at some point in your career and word travels fast. This is just a general life tip too! Be kind, be helpful and it will be noticed.
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Thanks for reading our Industry Insider feature with Sky Sports Presenter, Bela Shah!