Fox Sports presenters Yvonne Sampson, Isa Guha reveal sexist question all female journos asked

Fox League host Yvonne Sampson is still asking that question after 20 years of her career as a sportscaster.

The star presenter has joined forces with fellow Fox Sports reporters to make a powerful statement on issues at the heart of the Australian sports media landscape.

Sampson and Fox League colleagues Lara Pitt and Hanna Hollis have become some of the most popular figures in rugby league and their careers have blossomed after years of struggling to break the notorious blokey culture in some areas of the industry to break through.

However, the trio have now revealed that there is still one question that is undermining all the strides they have made as industry pioneers.

Sampson, Hollis and Pitt told News Corp’s Insight they still get asked if they even like sports.

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“Often the question when I started was – and it wasn’t from people I’ve worked with – it was from people who would see me as a game and people I would meet in my real life, they would say : “Do you really like sports? Do you really like rugby league?'” Pitt said as part of the special report celebrating International Women’s Day.

“And they were a little bit shocked and you said ‘Yep’ and you laugh about it.

Caption 1 (LR) Fox Sports on-air talent Lara Pitt, Megan Barnard, Jessica Yates, Yvonne Sampson, Hannah Hollis, Isa Guha, Cath Cox. Photo: Brett Costello PhotographySource: Delivered

“But I think the people I’ve always worked with have always respected that if you work hard and know what you’re doing, hone your craft and work hard to build credibility, you get respect from your peers, as it would be in any organization.

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“So I think people would naturally ask you that stupid question and it can come off as sexist, right? Because they say, “Do you really like sports? What would you know about rugby league?’

“And you know what? Maybe that’s because not many girls played rugby like I did when I was a kid. Obviously that’s changing now. So the role of women in rugby league has just taken off.”

Hollis also shared her frustration at the question, which won’t go away.

“When I started, I was often asked, ‘Do you really like sports?’ said Hollis.

Power 100: The most influential women in sport revealedSource: Herald Sun

“And it’s so disappointing because I sat there and I was like, ‘I’m finally living my dream, but don’t people believe me? How can I change this?”

Sampson has revealed that she has also grappled with the sexist stereotype throughout her career.

“I’ve been fired a couple of times and told that I wasn’t fit for sport and not fit for television in the first place,” said Rugby League host Yvonne Sampson.

“And I found that I went back to the drawing board and said, ‘Maybe they’re right, maybe I shouldn’t pursue a career in television or sports or journalism at all.’ And I quit television altogether when I was about 25 and went traveling and worked in the thoroughbred industry and thought I’ll never go back to television, but I’m so glad I did.

Jess Yates, Lara Pitt and Hannah Hollis at the launch of Fox League 2023. Photo: Fox League / Brett Costello.Source: Delivered
Corey Parker, Yvonne Sampson, Mal Meaning and Cooper Cronk are helping launch the Fox League’s 2023 NRL season. Photo: Fox League / Brett CostelloSource: Delivered

“So when I was about 27, I went straight back to a sports department. And I think the challenges are different. It’s funny, I never saw myself as a woman trying to be a sports reporter. I just wanted to be a reporter. I wanted to be a sports reporter.

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“I wanted access to contacts. I didn’t want to be treated as if I didn’t matter or that my stories were insignificant compared to some of the male journalists.

“And I didn’t want to be mocked, at press conferences you don’t want your questions to be laughed at.

“It’s a big responsibility when you walk in and you’re the only woman in the room. But I never felt like I was the only woman. It’s only when someone points it out to me or when people say, ‘You know, you’re doing a good job for a woman’.”

She says she experienced another career-defining moment after moving to Sydney, where she’s struggled financially and given up almost everything again.

“I arrived here with a suitcase and about $80 in my account. And no friends, no family, no place to stay.

“But fortunately I got to work straight away. In those early days when you’re stretching the budget, you can get a night’s takeaway and take it two, it’s all those little struggles that are worth it.

“That could have been a turning point, but it was really difficult to walk away because I would have been unfulfilled professionally. I would have always wondered what ifs and I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about that anymore because I kept going and what I found out there was amazing.”

– You can read the full list of the most influential women in Australian sport in News Corp’s Power 100 rankings

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