Steve Hopper | Presenter & Football Content Producer
Hi Steve, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Can you tell our readers about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?
Always a pleasure, never a chore! I’m a freelance presenter and content producer. I’ve been in this profession for over 15 years now. I’ve always enjoyed the magic of media and broadcasting, it’s just an area that I always felt comfortable around.
When did you know you wanted to become a presenter and work in sport?
I think I knew from a really early age that I wanted to be a presenter. I always remember one Christmas Eve, I must have been about 8, listening to Santa on the radio and thinking how cool it was that he could speak to me through this little speaker I had in my bedroom! I recently discovered a photo of me shouting down a microphone at a party. I couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4, so it was probably then.
I’ve always been passionate about football and in particular England so it occurred to me a few years ago that it would be a great idea to combine my two loves together. The best presenters can convey information about most things, but I think my best work really shines when I’m super invested in the subject.
You hosted ‘World Cup Latest’ on Freeview and Virgin Media in 2018 and a year later a series on Women’s Football called ‘Adopted By The Lionesses’. How did these come about and can you share your standout memories from those experiences?
World Cup Latest was my first TV series in football. I’d worked on certain football media projects in the past, but this was a whole new territory. It was a dream of mine to write a series and present one on the World Cup. This allowed me to really explore whether football broadcasting was something that I wanted to focus on predominantly as a presenter. I approached a small local broadcaster who liked my idea and we were off to the races! It proved to be a month full of near misses and the occasional win in career terms.
The original plan was to spend the entire tournament out in Russia. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, I only made it as far as Nice in the South of France. It really wasn’t meant to be. Sadly, some personal circumstances came into play which obstructed one or two flights. And on one occasion, I was on a train to the airport, only for it to be halted on the track due to a freak accident. Which meant I missed check in! In total, I missed four flights across the month, including one for the semi-final.
This really could and perhaps should have spelt doom for the series, however, the show must go on and other famous clichés, so I found a way to alter the entire series format. I focused on fans back in England and of course my own journey, warts an’ all, which told a different story than we’re used to seeing. And perhaps in a way that hadn’t been done before.
Adopted by the Lionesses came about when I realised that there was a huge boost in women’s football on the horizon. There was a gap in media exposure which I felt I could fill and mould with my own presenting style. This led to working alongside the England women’s squad during the World Cup of 2019, which was mega fun. I got to experience an away tournament in France, go behind the scenes at St George’s Park for training and media activities too. It really opened my eyes to where women’s football could be in just a few years time. This built my relationship with the FA and other footballing bodies.
This then led to being accredited by the US Soccer Federation for the SheBelieve’s Cup in 2020, which was the highlight of my career to date. 10 days, 5 flights, 3 states and 3 matches. I traveled with the Lionesses across the US as we visited Orlando, New Jersey and Dallas. It was quite some trip and it allowed me to flex my football content producer role.
Who are your favourite football presenters at the moment and what do you think it is that makes them so brilliant?
Gary Linker has been a master at football presenting for so long for me. Naturally he was assisted into this area when he retired as one of the greatest strikers our country has ever seen. His transition into punditry was an easy one for broadcasters because viewers would easily embrace his knowledge. I think though he became a household name due to his presenting for the next generation. By the time I started watching football, he’d already retired. He’s always had this natural ability to make you feel part of the game, which is what football is about. And none more so than during England matches.
What are the most enjoyable and difficult parts of your role?
I love being able to seek alternative views from players and fans alike. I really enjoy creating content which differs from what other organisations might be delivering. I think it’s important to offer as many options as possible as there are so many differing tastes. I like to make it fun and lighthearted too, which is not only entertaining for the viewer but also players and coaches alike. They get drilled enough in interviews so to be able to alleviate pressure and give an unexpected twist can really assist. Worry on top of worry isn’t helpful, as Terry Venebles once said, so if my ability to influence media experiences can exist in a positive light, that’s ultimately what I aim for. I’m a fan at the end of the day who wants success for the England teams, not just a scoop.
I’d say the most difficult part of my role is when I’m working on England content and they lose, say a European Championship final! You have to continue until the end of whatever production you’re working on, even though I’d rather shut myself away in a dark room for 3 days…
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would that be?
Great question, I like the controversial ones! Sometimes, you can experience a ‘clique’ in certain situations. I’ve often found that I carry I different skillset or vision compared to other media outfits on tournaments or matches that I’ve been at. I think it would be good if this is celebrated more. It should be made easier for broadcasters to gain access, to create their own spin. In many cases, the more exposure, the better. It can be far too exclusive made by certain footballing bodies, which is detrimental to reaching newer audiences.
What general advice would you give to those individuals looking to pursue a career in sports presenting — what are the key skills needed?
It’s so important to recognise that there’s a lot of competition out there. It’s not for the faint of heart. That being said, there are more opportunities to work in Sports Media than ever before. Commitment is crucial, which probably goes without saying. It’s important to find your niche too. What makes you stand out? Use that to your advantage. And get some experience.
With the advance in technology, anyone can create their own channel now on social media. Maybe you have a club you go to watch every week. You could present your own ‘piece to camera’ outside the ground perhaps, or speak with some fans? Further more, there are courses available on presenting. And look to sign up to your local hospital radio.
What do you do to switch off outside of work?
Football never stops. I can’t, nor do I want to escape it! So switching off for me really means it’s my turn to play! I train every week. I also love to travel every chance I get, experience somewhere new in the world or even at home.
And finally Steve, where can people find you on social media to connect?
You can find me @SteveHopperTV on all the main sites, including TikTok, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube. Be great to connect with all you England fans!
Sign up to the Freelance Football Opportunities newsletter to receive freelance football work directly in to your inbox every week: www.freelancefootballopps.com.