Women in Football

Ferguson's trail from pitch to TV producer

Alicia-Ferguson
  • Alicia Ferguson has built a strong and diverse career working in TV
  • Decorated former Australia international now living in London
  • Ferguson talks about her transition to TV, growth of the game and much more

A decade ago Alicia Ferguson’s life took a very different turn. Seeking to adapt to life away from the strict parameters of an athlete’s routine, the long-serving Australia midfielder secured a position as a TV analyst at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ among a galaxy of big-name personalities for USA host broadcaster ESPN.

Fast forward to the present day and Ferguson’s resume is bursting at the seams with TV experience, both in front of and behind the camera. Notably, she is now working as a producer for Ultimate Goal, a highly successful UK programme which undertakes a global search to uncover the next female football star.

Ferguson’s playing career was equally jam-packed. Debuting as a raw 15-year-old, the Brisbane-raised Ferguson accrued 66 caps, captained her country, featured at a home Olympic Games and played at two Women’s World Cups.

Quirkily, she also owns the record for the fastest red card in Women’s World Cup history – a second minute dismissal at USA 1999, aged just 17. Known for an easy-going nature and ready sense of humour, Ferguson looks back on that moment with equanimity.

“There were a lot of accentuating circumstances, I hadn’t slept that night at all,” Ferguson said. “It was such a negative experience, but it changed my outlook on the game and matured me.”

Alicia Ferguson #13 of Australia looks to pass as she is chased down by Sissi #10 of Brazil
© FIFA.com

A new challenge

Like many athletes, the transition from the playing bubble to a working life initially proved to be a challenge. “When I first got into production starting at the lowest level I had to be completely re-trained in the industry,” Ferguson, who has been London-based since 2012, told FIFA.com.

“It is quite a challenge to be re-trained as a 30-year-old. You have a bit of imposter syndrome and you think ‘I am not good enough for this’. I had just moved over from Australia without my friends and family around and it was stressful. I had to learn on the job very quickly and it can be a bit of a piranha-pool because there are so many people who want to work in live football, especially in the UK.

“Post-football career highlights have been getting into TV producing, in particular working as a producer on Ultimate Goal. That has been a huge achievement in such a difficult time, coming out of lockdown and in very Covid-heavy protocols. It has now been commissioned for a second series, which is absolutely phenomenal.

“The great thing now is that 100 per cent of my work is in women’s football, which I absolutely love and I never thought it would get to that stage. That underlines how the popularity has grown, certainly since I first arrived in the UK in 2012."

Coming into contact with the glass ceiling

Unsurprisingly perhaps, Ferguson hasn’t always found a welcome in the sometimes male-dominated world of football TV. “There were definitely instances where I think if I was male with the same background and calibre who wanted to re-train in the industry, I would have been treated a lot differently.

“I never offered up TV production advice because I was still learning, but there were examples of offering football expertise and analysis, but being dismissed quite quickly, and then having a male producer saying the same thing and that being taken on board. I was definitely treated not as equally as if I was a male. That bias was pretty hard to take.

“There are still not enough women producers in sport, and in football. There are more opportunities being offered now – the world is taking the blinkers off and realising that diversity and inclusion helps your company for a variety of processes."

From strength to strength

Ferguson has seen women’s football grow exponentially over her career. From an international debut in front of a handful of spectators, to helping the Matildas achieve breakthrough qualification for the 2007 Women’s World Cup quarter-finals and resultant heightened media coverage, to working amid the backdrop of the much-hailed recent English Women’s Super League season.

“The big difference in recent years has been the investment from the big (English) clubs and the one-club mentality. As soon as they jumped on board and understood that women’s football, and to be as one club, is a really positive thing.

“The quality has really gone up now that these players are all full-time athletes. You can see that in the physicality, the technique, the tactical awareness. Having the backing and the branding and all the structural pieces in place from the big clubs has been a bit of a game-changer. Having said that, I don’t think it has quite grown as quickly as anyone that has been in the game for a long time would have liked it to.”

The world coming to visit

A passionate advocate of women’s football Down Under, Ferguson is already counting down the months until Australia and New Zealand host the 2023 Women’s World Cup. “To say I’m excited about it - that would be an understatement,” she said. “Australia and New Zealand hosting a World Cup makes sense on so many levels. We are sports-mad nations and have the infrastructure in place with the stadiums.

“I was lucky enough to compete at a home Olympics which was the highlight of my career and this will be the highlight for the current players' careers.

"To be on the pitch in front of a home crowd, in front of your friends and family and having your national anthem played, you can’t compare that to any other experience in sport. I get goosebumps just talking about it now.”

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