My Story: CharltonTV's Charlotte Richardson

In celebration of International Women’s Day, CharltonTV’s Charlotte Richardson has detailed her experiences of working in football as she continues to fulfil a childhood dream.

Rather fittingly, Charlotte’s first steps into the industry came here at The Valley as a 15-year-old and, since then, she has broken down each and every barrier thrown at her to #BreakTheBias.

“I first got into football when I was at primary school playing before school started, at lunchtime and afterwards too,” explained Charlotte. “I'd go to football camps during half term and play in any girls teams I could find whilst mixing it with the boys when I was allowed.

“Growing up, I didn't realise I could work in football as I never saw women involved in the game. I thought it was only for men but when Jacqui Oatley became the first female to appear on Match of the Day, a penny dropped that perhaps if I worked hard enough, maybe one day I could work in the game too. 

“I was around 15 when that happened, I had just finished my GCSEs and was looking for work experience in the summer holidays. Whilst my friends were off into the city - at law firms and places like that - I went to The Valley! Peter Varney kindly gave me a week's work experience and I did a variety of tasks, from calling season ticket holders promoting upcoming renewals to working in the club shop. I knew from then it was something I wanted to pursue.

“I didn't have too many role models in the game growing up, however trailblazers like Jacqui Oatley who broke glass ceilings and paved the way for other women - like me - behind them are people I'd class as role models. Also, although she doesn't work in the game, my Mum was - and still is - a huge role model to me.”

Come matchday, Charlotte is the voice of SE7 in many ways as she combines her CharltonTV duties with her role as a stadium announcer.

“On the morning of a matchday, I will go over my research on the game and our opponents before travelling to The Valley for around midday. I head pitchside to conduct my first interview for CharltonTV. 

“After that, I go to the CharltonTV Lounge where I have the pleasure of sitting down with Alan Curbishley and whoever our guest is that week. My role is to try to make the guests feel comfortable and ask the questions which get the best stories and most interesting answers! I really enjoy talking to people and learning more about them which lends itself perfectly to this job! 

“I'm then joined by Steve Brown and I pose tactical questions to him so the supporters who join us get a different insight and perspective before the team line-ups are confirmed.” 

“I'll then head pitchside. I'll go over my matchday script with the team and as we countdown to kick-off my job is to deliver that and look after our Junior Announcers. I love this part of the matchday and think it is fantastic that Charlton gives young fans the chance to create special memories with their families and the team they love. I'll do the same job at half-time and then my focus is on my post-match interviews. 

“Throughout the game, I'll be thinking about the key points and moments I might need to ask Johnnie Jackson about later. I try to enjoy the twists and turns of the 90 minutes whilst framing and drafting my questions so that immediately after the game I can compress my thoughts on the performance and result to craft questions the manager and players can answer openly and honestly.

“I'm very lucky and grateful to enjoy matchdays at The Valley. Come rain or shine, win, draw or lose, it's something I'll never take for granted. The 15-year-old Charlotte on work experience would be pinching herself at the chance to do this!

“Women are still very much an underrepresented group in football, so I enjoy bringing a different kind of perspective, approach and style to what I do. I also always try to make the environment I work in one that is more inclusive for anyone. I think that is really important and a responsibility for me to do my best to ensure the game gets better at welcoming the next generation of young women with all their talent, skills, passion and ambition.”

Charlotte has however encountered prejudice first-hand, though feels the role of allies, coupled with the increased presence of females in positions of prominence, is helping to alter the football environment for the better.

“Sadly, I can't say I haven't experienced sexism. I have had incidents and encounters which have been upsetting, uncomfortable, belittling and difficult. I wouldn't want any woman to encounter such things when all she is trying to do is the job she is employed to do, to the best of her ability. 

“However, I believe there is now more support for women should they encounter sexism or misogyny and, in turn, I think football is changing to become a more positive environment. Men are recognising the important role they can play in terms of being an ally to women in football which is helping the landscape of the game evolve for the better.

“I think it is really important to celebrate women working in football because whilst some people might not think it relevant or important, for young girls and women to increase visibility of female footballers and women working in the game is essential. If you can't see it, you can't be it. 

“It took me 16 years until I encountered a woman working in football. I've pursued a career no one thought I should have. I have had a lot of people think and say I can't do things because of my gender. I think any woman and girl should be able to play, work, volunteer and watch football if she chooses to. So taking International Women's Day as an opportunity to celebrate the careers and achievements of women in football is a great thing in my opinion.

“Days like today present an opportunity for us to shine a spotlight on an underrepresented group, highlight inequalities and where we need to do better whilst celebrating the progress that has been made.”

In 2016, Charlotte founded the Eighth Wonder programme to create football’s future female leaders, targeting those between the ages of 14 and 20.

“Eighth Wonder was a programme I set up when I was 24 years old. We have hosted three development days with over 100 girls gaining an insight into the variety of careers available to them in the game. We have put over 50 women through their Level One coaching qualifications and hosted events to support young girls and women volunteering in the grassroots game. 

“I am really proud of the programme and our collaboration with partners to offer the support I never had as a young woman trying to craft a career in this game. The Eighth Wonder participants are an inspiring bunch. The energy, ambition and hopes they have for their futures always encourages me to pursue my own goals whilst leaving the door open for others on my way.”

Read Time: 6 mins