Higher performance: Toon’s own Lynsey Hipgrave an early upgrade for TNT Sports

John Nicholson
TNT Sports presenter Lynsey Hipgrave
Lynsey Hipgrave will lead TNT Sport's Prem coverage.

From the ridiculous to the sublime: giving top pro and all-round good egg Lynsey Hipgrave the lead presenter’s gig was a no-brainer for TNT Sports. John Nicholson explains why…


Who’s this then?
Lynsey Hipgrave is a 43-year-old Newcastle-born presenter now on TNT Sports who took over the failed BT Sport venture this week. She will be our host for live Premier League coverage and is widely regarded as one of the best in the business, having risen to the top in a 10-year career on BT Sport fronting the Champions League, Europa League and the FA Cup.

She got started on breakfast radio in Manchester and then as a travel reporter on 5live where she would later co-host the excellent Danny Baker show on Saturday mornings. That’s where I first heard her and her quick wit and relaxed, funny style was immediately obvious.

Her first TV work was presenting Champions League games on Al Jazeera, she’s also done the African Cup Of Nations games on ITV4 and worked for ESPN. But it’s on BT Sport where we’ve all grown very familiar with her talent.

As an unmistakable Geordie, with an accent formed in the shadow of the Dunston Rocket, it’s still relatively unusual for anyone presenting sport to have a strong regional accent. It does happen but is more rare than it should be. As such, she has very much cut a new path in sports broadcasting, albeit in a very unassuming, bright-eyed way.

A genuine lifelong fan of Newcastle United and someone who used to go to reserve-team games because they couldn’t afford to go to the first-team games, there is nothing fake or contrived about her.

Maybe I’m biased because my missus is a Geordie and we lived in and around Newcastle for many years, but there is a certain streak of humour and self-deprecation to people from the Toon. They’re not uptight, are unpretentious, tend to like a drink and have an antenna for a good time, all the time. I reckon Lynsey is a good example of this generalisation and it comes across to the viewer. Maybe that’s why she’s so successful.

Why the love?
I’m told by insiders that she is incredibly popular in the industry because she’s such a pro, is very knowledgeable and obviously very good at the job. Pundits love her because she lets them talk and asks the right questions at the right times. Safe to say the presenter she replaced was divisive with the audience, but she very much isn’t.

While she has suffered online pile-ons and the typical heinous abuse women especially face in the social media environment, she continues to impress with her informal, relaxed style.

The presenter’s job is to make the audience feel they are in safe hands, to make the guests feel they’re not going to be hung out to dry and to coax the best possible work out of the bookings. On top of that you’ve got to show a bit of passion for football, be light-hearted when appropriate, and serious when needed.

Those who think it is an easy job and all you’re doing is reading from an autocue, are almost certainly only thinking that because the likes of Lynsey, Gary Lineker, Mark Chapman, Matt Smith and Kelly Cates, to name just a few, make it look that way. But if you try to look natural, speak in a normal way, read out loud while someone is counting you down in your ear, all the while not looking like a deer caught in the headlights, not making a mistake in pronunciation, or letting an f-bomb slip, it is really bloody difficult. It’s so easy to become stiff and look absolutely glaked, so it’s a real skill to let yourself be yourself when the red light is on.

Also bear in mind that in football broadcasting, they are piecing the half-time and post-game shows together as the match is unfolding. Selecting bits of play for the pundits to dissect, or finding controversial moments, or some brilliant skill to analyse. There is no rehearsing for this for the presenter, who has to hold it all together and know which bit to go to and when, simultaneously prepared to bail out the pundit who is struck dumb, is talking nonsense, is being boring or waffling aimlessly. You have to think on your feet, know a good point when one is made and also know when someone is floundering and you need to move on.

When done well, we don’t realise that the show is being done on the hoof in this way. That Lynsey is so good at this unseen production teamwork and makes presenting not look like hard work, probably leads to her being somewhat under-rated, or flying under the radar with the public, but live broadcasting is full of potential pitfalls that need navigating in every broadcast and she is an expert at doing it.

We really should appreciate high performing presenters more, rather than just beat up on those who we don’t enjoy.

Read more: Ranking the TNT Sports punditry team from the dull Michael Owen to effervescent Joe Cole

Three great moments
Talking much sense about online hate by the keyboard warriors…

Not taking any shite off callers…

Doing her bit for charidee…

Future days?
One well known, high profile presenter told me for my book ‘Can We Have Our Football Back?’ that it was not unknown for presenters in general to be ego maniacs and went on to list a few of the worst, but tellingly said those who come across like the nicest, down-to-earth people, almost always are the nicest, down to earth people and very much included Lynsey in that description. Authentic was the word they used.

It is very hard to fake authenticity because it’s hard to be consistent when you’re pretending to be the sort of person you’re really not. Reality keeps intruding. This is especially true of radio, as the most intimate of broadcasting platforms, but it applies on television too. So the observation that the people who seem really nice actually are really nice, while apparently obvious, has good grounding in fact.

Middle-aged men have long occupied all of the sport broadcasting real estate, middle-aged women almost never. However, with football broadcasting now taking on a far more female presence, this should change. The entire TNT presenting team being female is a first for UK football broadcasting and confirms that there is a very welcome, if long overdue, cultural shift happening.

So we can look forward to canny lass Lynsey being on our screens for the next 25 years, which is geet lush, that, like. Gan on hinny!!

Read next: Farewell BT Sport; you were never truly loved and TNT Sports must be different to survive