In edition #247 of Industry Insider, we spoke to Sanny Rudravajhala, Freelance Sports Reporter and Presenter working for organisations such as Sky Sport News and BBC Sport!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Sanny Rudravajhala and I’m a freelance sports reporter and presenter and I’m lucky enough to work for Sky Sports News and BBC Sport.
For Sky I’m often the guy in the car park, press conference or pitch side and did the summer Transfer Deadline Day at Manchester United, which was eventful! For BBC Sport I do lots of different things. I’ve been the sports presenter on Radio 1, regularly do the sports news on 5 Live and report for 5 Live Sport.
Finally, I’ve also worked on the TV side too, as a football reporter on-screen and an assistant producer behind the camera, editing videos, pitching stories and making packages.
As for what else I’ve done… where do I begin?! I started at BBC Radio Manchester in news and sport but that was born out of pitching a podcast series, ‘Out of Our League’. The documentary followed the fall and rise of football in Bury, after my team, Bury FC got kicked out of the EFL in 20
That whole fiasco caused me to fall into journalism. Before that, I was a teacher for a decade, and I’m also trained in Psychology and Sport Psychology. Making the podcast led me to quit my job as a science teacher and retrain in journalism. So, I traded the science lab for the press box!
What do you do in your current roles?
As Premier League rights holders, Sky can send a reporter to every press conference and get to have sit down interviews with the managers and players. So, for SSN I’m one of the regular reporters at clubs in the north. I’ve really enjoyed bringing my different outlook and journey to my work and I think it’s helped me get something a bit different and made some big headlines here and there too.
As I mentioned, I’ve been the sports presenter on BBC Radio 1 and I do the sports news on 5 Live. One great role is with the World Service, either as a presenter or football reporter, and that’s where you can find some brilliant stories that can capture the world’s imagination! I also report on matches for 5 Live Sport, which is really fun and a challenge to do it well!
Away from writing and presenting the sports news on the radio, reporting on live matches for BBC 5 Live Sport is really enjoyable. I still have lots to keep working on and spend time listening back to my work figuring out how to improve.
I’m also a contributor on the Guardian Football Weekly, which I still find mind blowing. My favourite, the best and the original football podcast and for some reason, my musings are occasionally of use!
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
Here, there and everywhere!
I have Mondays off to look after my one-year-old daughter, unless I’m a guest for Football Weekly, and then I have to jump through a few childcare hoops in the morning!
Weekdays are generally working for the BBC but I also host events and get asked to contribute to international sports TV programmes too. Thankfully I have an agent now in Refresh Sports and Leon Mann, so they help me keep a bit of balance and variety in the work I do.
Towards the end of the week tends to be Premier League press conferences for Sky Sports News, bouncing between Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City but I’m happy to travel anywhere after I’ve got the kids to school and nursery!
Weekends can be pitch side for Sky or reporting for 5 Live Sport. I spent just over two seasons presenting the Squad Goals show across local radio, which really helped me find my voice as a broadcaster. But I’m enjoying being out of the studio and in the stadium for now!
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I always wanted to be a sports journalist, my dad was a doctor but he passed away just after my 15th birthday. That plus family pressure caused me to turn away from pursuing that dream and follow in my father’s footsteps. That didn’t quite come together (thankfully!) and I studied Psychology. But after the 2008 recession put paid to my plans to become a sports psychologist, I leaned on my neuroscience base at degree level to end up retraining as a Biology teacher.
Teaching took me all around the world, from South Africa to Mexico City and I had a truly rewarding job in my last role in education as a Science teacher at the Manchester Hospital School for four years but making Out of Our League whilst working as a teacher ended up being the thing to push me to go for a career change.
Leaving the teaching profession was a challenge all-round but I got a grant from the Journalism Diversity Fund to retrain at Salford University for a Master’s in Broadcast Journalism. That and taking the NCTJ exams gave me all the tools to try and make a success of journalism and broadcasting, I wouldn’t have got very far without it.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Accuracy. Above all else. That manifests itself in loads of ways. When I’m match reporting, I keep a monocular with me – in case I can’t quite pick out a player when calling a goal and I try and make as many notes as if I was commentating on a game, so that I know my stuff and feel fluent enough to hold my own with any die-hard fan!
On camera I’ll make notes on my phone before going on air and have them to hand just in case. And when I’m doing sports news on the radio I can sometimes go down rabbit holes trying to make sure I get pronunciations right! After that, it’s trying to come across confident and relaxed – but preparation all helps with that.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
This goes against the fact I keep a monocular because it turns out on radio, ‘player identification’ isn’t one of the key things a listener wants to know when a goal is scored… but my first ever game for BBC Radio Manchester was Oldham vs Carlisle United.
The Cumbrians had an away kit of Green numbers on a green shirt. When they scored, I buzzed in straight away, before I’d figured out what had happened and who scored. I didn’t know who scored but my focus was such that I don’t think I really managed to articulate much more than Carlisle had the ball in the net, in that moment I felt like I was drowning! Thankfully, I got lots of feedback and advice and more games to get better since then!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I’ve been really lucky to have some brilliant opportunities, so for me I’m super excited at what I’ve done and hopefully will keep doing.
We’re going through a difficult period as a country financially and changing time in how sport is consumed. That’s of course getting reflected in sports coverage and the resources that can be allocated. But out of that uncertainty there is opportunity and if you’re a multi-platform journalist, who’s willing to say yes and take on a challenge, then I think there are really exciting times ahead.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
Not to bite the hand that feeds me but we have such a rich sporting culture in this country, I wish we could give a bit more coverage to sports away from football. I’ve just created a cycling podcast series, ‘On Yer Bike’, with a 10-part documentary following The Tour of Britain. And I was the only journalist in the whole country who was there for every day.
When you think the Tour de France gets over one billion viewers and Netflix have invested in cycling stories, I think we could be doing more. So, I’m trying to do just that and we’re making weekly episodes now!
If you could humour me to change one other thing… we need to recognise and continue to emphasise that sports people are just people.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
I have a one-year-old and a four-year-old, so they can derail any attempt to keep up with sport outside of work! It’ll sound very middle class but we joined that National Trust a few years ago as we have a few places near us. It means we always have an excuse to get out and have a bit of nature in our lives!
That and I have a 5-a-side team that’s been going for 23 years… the way we play barely counts as sport these days!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
I could give you loads!! I’ll go for one that maybe not everyone will say… reflect on your work, park your ego and ask for feedback. Respecting those more experienced than you and asking them to give you their harshest critique is a really efficient way to get better quickly! That and watching and listening to your stuff back – whether it’s broadcast or doing it yourself on socials. See what you can do better next time and over time you’ll get loads better.
How to connect with Sanny Rudravajhala…
LinkedIn: Sanny Rudravajhala
Subscribe to my podcast ‘On Yer Bike’ here.