Interviewing sports phenomena such as Pele, David Beckham and Usain Bolt is a dream that many people across the globe aspire to achieve, but ROB DORSETT has had the pleasure of interviewing all three – most recently Bolt.
When Rob was studying for an English degree at the University of Birmingham, he would not have believed that those ambitions would come true, but the Sky Sports News presenter has had the privilege to sit down with some of the most recognisable names in world sport. I caught up with the well-known journalist just months after he sat face-to-face with the world’s fastest man following the historic Treble Treble at the Rio Olympics – an interview Rob describes as the ‘highlight’ of his career thus far.
“I would have to put my interview with Usain Bolt at the summit.” Dorsett revealed.
“He is the only star of that calibre that I have managed to interview when they are at the peak of their powers. It was just two weeks after he had secured the treble treble in the Rio Olympics so it was truly amazing.
“He really is an incredible character. He has absolutely massive in size but he is the nicest, most humble guy you will ever meet. His passion for what he does demands respect and he was a pleasure to speak to. I still think it is the best interview I have produced to date.”
During his teenage years, Rob was torn between pursuing a career in law or journalism. He opted to utilise his passion for football to drive him determinedly towards the latter, however, and that proved to be a decision he does not regret.
“Whilst I was at university I ended up working for the student newspaper called ‘RedBrick’. After a few months there I became Sports Editor and I could go to any football matches I wanted in the local area, so I mainly went to Birmingham City and Aston Villa games and I was able to get some decent access.
“The big break came when I won a Young Sports Journalist of the Year competition with The Independent newspaper and they sent me to Japan to cover the World Student Games. It is a massive event everywhere in Europe apart from Britain and I ended up getting six or seven articles published so I suddenly had a bit of a portfolio.
“I then used that to speak to BBC Radio WM and a guy called Tim Beech who was the Sports Editor there. Luckily, he took me under his wing and I went with him to record some off-air reports and it developed from there really. I managed to get a few shifts working for BBC Sport and BBC News in Birmingham offered me a contract and that is where my journey really started.”
Now a member of the coveted Sky Sports News team, the journalist is living the dream. Reflecting on his time there so far, Rob insists he ‘would not want to work anywhere else’ despite the constant challenges that are thrown his way.
“It is fantastic and I have been there nearly twelve years now. During that time I have had to earn respect, but once you have that they will back you and you have the freedom to find stories and get them out there.
“There is no resting on your laurels, but that is the best thing about it in my opinion. It really is 24/7 but I relish the challenges every single day. Anything can happen at any time so you have to be aware so you can be across it quickly – you have to love it because it can be extremely demanding.
“You are given some fantastic opportunities and the facilities and resources are phenomenal so it is a brilliant environment to work in.”
One of the most prominent stories in footballing history occurred in 2016 – Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City lifted the Premier League trophy following a simply amazing season. Although Nottingham Forest supporters would argue that it does not rival the successive European titles of 1979 and 1980 under Brian Clough, Rob begs to differ.
“Covering Leicester’s achievements last season was just an honour. I have no end of debates with Forest fans about wether or not Leicester’s achievement is bigger, and I actually believe it is. With all the money now involved within the game, how a team with the odds of 5000/1 can win the league is ridiculous – nobody saw it coming at all.
Despite interviewing a plethora of famous figures and reporting on some of the world’s major sporting events, Dorsett insists the Foxes’ fairytale is the ‘best story’ he has ever worked on due to way it ‘captured the sporting imagination’ of so many people.
“I was talking to Russians, Americans and various other Europeans and they simply could not believe what was happening. That is what makes you realise how big the news actually was and I am certain we will not see anything like it again – certainly not in my lifetime anyway.”
Getting to know the players and staff at the club gave Rob an extra insight into what it meant to the football club, and he believes their success was great for the sport as a whole.
“I think everybody felt that way. The majority of us were sceptical that they would fall away from top spot, but to see their name engraved on the trophy was extraordinary.
“After getting to know the players over the last few years, they are just humble people and it was very special to be close to them during the season because I don’t think they quite believed it themselves.
“On the day they won the title, I was at the training ground with Sky Sports News and we were the only camera crew present. When we were not filming, it was emotional and there were plenty of hugs and moments of reflection amongst the players – just to get that access and to see what it really meant to them is something I will never forget when I look back on my career.”
Meanwhile, whilst Leicester now compete in the Champions League due to their league win, football is not exactly thriving across the rest of the midlands. Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Birmingham City and Coventry City have all had their fair share of off-field issues to contend with.
“It is a real shame to see such clubs in turmoil” Rob expressed. “Midlands football had its heyday in the 1970’s and 1980’s and I guess you just have to remember those days and hope that they return.
“So much of the success at clubs depends on who the ownership and there is so much foreign investment now that – to a certain extent – makes it a lottery as to whether your club is run brilliantly or catastrophically. Leicester and Nottingham Forest were both taken over at a similar time, and who would have thought their fortunes could differ so greatly. I am actually adamant that Forest fans were more positive about their future following the ownership change, but it has not turned out as they would have wished.
“With regards to Coventry, they have been marred by poor owners, poor structure and poor management and the way the club has been run over a long period of time means they are now paying a hefty price. They have little assets left and that means that anybody looking to purchase a club can get better value for money elsewhere. I know how the Sky Blues’ supporters are suffering and it’s heartbreaking to see.”
Despite various clubs being in trouble across the country, Rob is pleased to see that the women’s game is continually developing. He holds the opinion that the formation of the Premier League in 1992 is partly responsible for a shift in the attitude towards the sport.
He said: “Football has a much more diverse fan base than it had back then. A completely different dynamic has been bred since 1992 and women, families and minority groups are much more widely accepted within the game.
“We have witnessed the growth of the women’s game and disabled sport and I believe it is vital to make football more inclusive.
“It (women’s football) still has a long way to go to bridge the gap between the men’s game but it’s a good spectacle and the standard has improved drastically over the last decade. We have a thoroughly competitive top division and clubs are taking it much more seriously which is brilliant – it can only continue to go from strength to strength.”
As the funds made available to clubs has risen recently with a fresh television deal particularly enhancing the finances of Premier League clubs, the sums of money paid in transfer fees to acquire the services of players grips supporters everywhere. Consequently, the media are forced to keep news and speculation flowing – so is Rob looking forward to ‘Deadline Day’ which is fast approaching?
“Of course, I cannot wait for it. It is hectic but I love it! We know at Sky Sports News that it is a topic on every fan’s lips so it is a big day that we have to prepare for. Talking to managers, players and agents can be challenging at times as we look to weave through the minefield and pick out what stories are true, but it is extremely exciting.
The special occasion is marked by presenter Jim White digging out his golden tie, and Rob admits he is a pleasure to work with.
“I get on with Jim really well. He is probably one of our best journalists and I really enjoy working with him. We will share information and support each other and the relationship we’ve got is brilliant. He is really passionate about it and he really does live for football – a lot of people don’t necessarily see that when they watch him, but he works incredibly hard behind the scenes to get stories for us.
“The one thing that sets him apart is his contacts. Every journalist on the team has good contacts, but his are exceptional and they are key for us at Sky Sports News. He is just a really honest, genuine guy who is fantastic at his job.”
With a wealth of experience under his belt, Rob is well known amongst the footballing circles and he appears on out TV screens regularly. During his time working alongside Jim and the rest of the Sky Sports News crew, he has attended some thrilling football matches. His favourite, however, reveals who he supports.
“I have covered some absolute crackers, but I will give myself away if I say the best game I have been involved in was Birmingham City’s Carling Cup win over Arsenal at Wembley. Having always been a closer Blues fan, there is nothing better than seeing your team win at the national stadium.
“The one thing that I will also remember is hugging Alex McLeish on the pitch in front of around 25,000 Birmingham fans. There were a few chants of ‘who are ya’ from the crowd, but it was all good fun. I did remain professional that day, but the emotions were flowing that is for sure!”
Despite witnessing his side’s triumph at an impressive Wembley Stadium, Rob does not see it as one of the best venues he has visited.
“It is good, but it wouldn’t be at the top of my list. I have two really – my favourite being Borussia Dortmund. It looks amazing even when it is empty, but when it is full and bouncing it really is a fantastic experience. Definitely, 100 per cent, it is the loudest ground I have been to and the atmosphere they create there is very unique.
“My second one – purely for architectural reasons – is the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. I covered the Republic of Ireland national team for around five years and that place is absolutely gorgeous. The beautiful, space-aged roof that is clad in glass panels is beautiful. I would certainly say it is one of the most aesthetically pleasing grounds out there.”
Being involved with a number of high profile interviews and sporting events makes Rob a professional to aspire to, and as a result, he often gets asked for tips about getting into the industry. Although he admits it is very ‘difficult’, he encourages anybody to pursue their dreams.
“I was very lucky to have some of the opportunities I did, but when I was at uni I was working seven days a week. You have got to be enthusiastic and determined as many more people come out with journalism degrees than there are jobs available, but I have met some of the most famous names in sport – it is that buzz that you work so hard towards.
“Persistence is key – it is a fantastic career and you’ve got to stick at it. People often assume we earn huge amounts of money because we appear on television but it does not work out like that. If you are motivated solely by money then it is not the career path for you. Journalism is not about who is the best, it is about who has got the most stamina and who is prepared to stick in there and get their foot in the door first.
“Just keep searching for that break – you only need one to get the ball rolling. There are so many people out there that want to pursue this particular career and you need something that sets you aside – you can do all of the courses under the sun but you have got to get some work experience, something that shows you are good at what you do.”