For many, football is a huge part of family life, with children growing up attending matches with their parents and then going on to do the same with their own children. Kelly Somers spent her childhood following Watford FC, with her Mother and late Grandparents having season tickets at the club. After begging to go to the 1998 Play-Off Final, on her arrival she was captured by the colour, noise and spectacle. 20 years later and she has worked for three Premier League clubs, the BBC, talkSport, Premier League Productions and has no intentions of stopping there. I spoke to her about family, the Fantasy Premier League, and reporting on this year’s FIFA World Cup.
Having always been sporty as a child, there wasn’t an activity that Kelly didn’t try. Her Mother played netball regularly, and so it only seemed right that she would too. “I did briefly play football, hockey, athletics and basically anything else – but netball was my main sport,” she said. Her passion for football grew as she got older and ahead of the 1998 Play-Off Final, Somers had begged her Mum to take her to the game, with this being where her interest really took off. “My mum said I was captivated from the moment I walked into the stadium. From then on, I was hooked and went to any game I was allowed to. It was tough as my friends weren’t interested but it’s always been a big thing in my family, so for me it just felt normal,” she explained.
With sport remaining an important part of her life, Kelly went to Loughborough University to study Sport Science, an establishment famed for its links to the sports industry. “I always had a feeling I’d end up going into sports journalism, so I used my time there to do work placements and also make contacts – and somehow, I also managed to persuade them to let me do a dissertation on social media and football clubs. I drove to every single club I could to meet media officers to find out all the information I could,” Somers told me. Her interest in journalism had begun earlier than this though, when she entered a competition for a ‘young sports writer’ in her local newspaper. “I must have been about 10 years old at the time, but I wrote a short match report on Watford v Leicester and won! I won a day in the press box at Vicarage Road with the then Sports Editor at the paper, a mobile phone and my report was published in the next paper. From that day I realised that sports journalism could be a great way of combining my passions,” Kelly described.
Her pathway into a football club also came a lot sooner than she thought, and just as she was preparing to enter further education to enhance her chances of working in the industry, she was made aware of an opportunity that may be of interest to her. “I left Loughborough and had a place to study broadcast journalism at Nottingham Trent university, but a couple of months before I was due to go, one of the press officers I met during my dissertation told me there was a job going at AFC Bournemouth and that I may be suited,” Kelly said. The role was as a Media Assistant and with the club being in League One at the time, she would be part of a small team with a variety of responsibilities. The job would involve everything from creating content for social media to liaising with local press. “I didn’t think I had a chance, but I applied anyway. I’d carried out so much work experience during my time at university, I had also started regularly volunteering at Peterborough United and Doncaster Rovers,” Somers told me. Knowing she was up against people with years of experience, she was pessimistic about her chances. However, this in fact worked in her favour with the media team at Bournemouth. “A few weeks later, I got a call to say I had the job, and a couple more weeks later I moved to the south coast, aged 21 and knowing no one. It was a whirlwind, but what an incredible decision it was,” she added.
As the club progressed, being promoted from League One to the Premier League, the media team got larger and larger, meaning she was able to specialise. “I loved the communications side and liaising with players and external press, and I kept that as part of my role for a long time there. I did all of the interviews for the club’s online video channel and also started presenting on the pitch on a matchday. It’s safe to say I was fortunate to join a club on such an upward trajectory. I absolutely loved my time there and it’ll always be a special place to me,” Somers explained. The team’s promotion to the Premier League also introduced her to one of her future jobs with her now being a regular face for Premier League Productions. “I took a real interest in what their regular reporter did when he came down. Then when they created two new roles for ‘on-screen assistant producers’, I screen tested, and got the job, joining in August 2016 mainly scripting and presenting short pieces of content for the channel. My role has since evolved and alongside that, I now present ‘Fanzone’, I’ve also presented their Saturday morning warm up show ‘Kick Off’ and the Fantasy Premier League Show, and I also report regularly for their news output and other various shows. I have been able to really hone my skills. It’s an incredible place to work,” Kelly said.
In the 2 years Somers has been working for them, she has seen a huge increase in the popularity of the Fantasy Premier League. “I can’t believe how much it has grown. I present daily updates with nuggets of information for (FPL) managers, which goes out to rights holders, on the Premier League website and social media. Not only are the number of players going up, but the amount of people that contact me on social media, from all parts of the world, is incredible. I do love working on it… but it does take over your life a bit!” she exclaimed. Working with PLP is not her only role though, with Kelly also covering the UK’S top football league for BBC’s Final Score and talkSport, as well as reporting on the Women’s Super League Show. “Reporting is something I love – nothing beats the buzz of being at a match. To be there for work is incredible and nothing beats the exhilaration of being thrown to live, to describe a goal. That said, I do a lot in the studio too – and sometimes nothing beats the warmth of that,” she said.
It isn’t just reporting that takes her out of the studio though – Somers is also out in all weather at the London Stadium working as West Ham’s Matchday Presenter. After helping out at a family fun day at the football club, she was soon asked to do every match as well as corporate events. “The club prides itself on its history and legends, so often I’ll interview former players, sometimes the ladies’ team or other special guests. At the Wolves game, I interviewed international movie star Dave Bautista – every game is different and I love the buzz of presenting live to 60,000 people,” she described. However, she does admit that combining her job with her main hobby and passion makes it hard to find time to socialise outside of work. “If I’m honest, when I’m not working I love to go to games as a fan! I have to stop myself sometimes – my friends aren’t football fans so don’t really understand why I want to work such long hours, and why when I’m not at work I choose to still watch games! I am also very used to missing social events – and that is definitely one of the hardest parts of it. Another thing that can be tough is that it can also be a very subjective industry. It took me a while to realise not everyone is going to like you and you won’t suit every show. You have to remember to just be you, and play to your strengths, but I’d also say above all else, be nice to people and good to work with – then even if you’re not what a company is looking for, you can leave with your head held high,” Somers told me.
If Kelly wasn’t busy enough with all the roles previously described, this summer whilst the Premier League was away, she, like many, was engrossed in the FIFA World Cup. There reporting for Australian rights holders Optus Sports, Somers spent 5 weeks in Russia covering the tournament. “I took 30 flights, moved every night, took in 17 games and did hundreds of live crosses from nearly every host city. It was incredible to be at one of the best World Cups ever and to be broadcasting to the other side of the world was also incredible. By the midway point, I was exhausted from all of the travel but adrenalin is an incredible thing, and it was worth every second. I’m now going to be traveling around Europe reporting on Champions League games for them too. I sometimes I have to pinch myself,” she told me, admitting that being in Russia for the competition was one of the greatest moments of her career.
Kelly Somers has already had a career that others could only dream of, and she still has many years ahead of her, and says she is nowhere near where she wants to be. Her hard work has meant she has worked with AFC Bournemouth, Premier League Productions, BBC Final Score, talkSport, Women’s Super League Show, West Ham United, Optus Sports and surely more to come. Her advice for others looking to follow in her footsteps would be: “work hard! Be prepared to be patient – gain experience, but you won’t get to where you want to overnight. Soak up what people tell you and every little nugget of information you can. It’s an amazing industry in that the majority of people have been you – that person starting out – and so many will be willing to help.”
(All photo credits, unless specified: Kelly Somers, @KellySomers)