Seema Jaswal will present Euro 2020 on ITV after breaking barriers to shoot to stardom… and, after once nearly throwing in the towel, she is now set on helping a new generation of female broadcasters in ‘a time of real change’
- Seema Jaswal will present ITV’s live coverage of Euro 2020, starting this month
- Jaswal is one of broadcasting’s rising stars and has set about breaking barriers
- After deciding against quitting, Jaswal has worked for a variety of companies
- She has fronted up Premier League games and been with Star Sports in India
- Now, just days out from the start of the Euros, Jaswal has spoken to Sportsmail
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here.
It wasn’t always a clear shot at stardom for Seema Jaswal, who will be one of ITV’s main presenters for the European Championship, which starts tonight. Like any good success story, there were struggles along the way and testing times where she was seriously tempted to call it quits for good.
That change of mind, and a sheer determination to cling on in an industry renowned for its rollercoaster nature, has paid off handsomely. During her chat with Sportsmail this week, just days out from the tournament, Jaswal is a stark contrast to the woman who once found herself stuck at home, wondering what to do next.
Taking a moment to reflect back on those early days, the time before her career spectacularly burst into life, she outlines a conversation shared with one of her close neighbours in the cul-de-sac where they lived.
The elderly lady, who is described as ‘lovely’, was politely taken aback when told what Jaswal wanted to pursue for her career. Now, years on, this chat is occasionally used as motivation, and a reminder of the obstacles overcome.
Jaswal says: ‘When I said I wanted to be a presenter, she was like, “Seema, but you don’t know anyone in the industry. These sorts of things don’t happen to people like us. Are you sure that’s really what you want to do?”‘
Over the course of the last decade, she has set about proving everyone, and everything, wrong and done so with a rich beam of a smile, self-confidence and a slightly nervy bundle of excitement.
Seema Jaswal will present live coverage of this summer’s European Championship for ITV
Over the last decade, Jaswal has become a rising star in broadcasting and forms part of ITV’s star-studded roster for Euro 2020, including the likes of Gary Neville and Roy Keane
‘There were moments where I was thinking whether it was right for me and whether I should be doing this,’ Jaswal says. ‘It was around the time when I’d just broken into the industry. I was working on CBBC’s Sportsround and Match of the Day Kickabout as a reporter, I was freelance, and also on The Wright Stuff on Channel 5.
‘Some weeks are full, you’re working Sunday all the way through to the following Sunday. But then you might not have work for another three weeks.
‘You’ll suddenly get one day that’s coming up and you’re really looking forward to it, but it can get cancelled.
‘It’s interesting because when you’re in the creative world, you sometimes do wait for the phone to ring or an email to come through. I was in that phase during my CBBC and Wright Stuff days, because I wasn’t permanent in any of those fields.
‘All I wanted to do was progress, but because I didn’t have enough experience, it was hard for any bosses to take a bit of a gamble on me.’
Jaswal has enjoyed a stellar rise in broadcasting and will take up her best role yet at the Euros
Those sturdy brick walls thrown up in the way almost got the better of her, and she is more than open to admitting that. It took some serious soul searching, and leaning on the shoulders of those around her, but eventually she stayed on track.
‘I had a really good think about what I wanted to do,’ she says. ‘I remember this like it was yesterday. I saw my mum and dad, who worked so hard in their respective fields.
‘They would be going to work every day and coming home, and I would be just sat in my room, trying to research and figure out what my next move was going to be.
‘I was talking to my agent and constantly looking for things, but it just wasn’t happening. I felt guilty. How could my parents do so much when I wasn’t doing anything?
‘So it got to the stage where I was very, very close to actually picking a different path. I turned to my partner and I spoke to him about it. He just convinced me to keep going and said I could do it. He ended up helping me initially.
‘It all paid off, because within about six or seven months of trying to make contacts and breaking down doors I then landed the role at Star Sports. That was essentially my break. I haven’t stopped since then. I’m really glad now that I didn’t give up.’
The sheer relief comes as no surprise, because her story is one of personal triumph. She has worked as the face of Indian football for the network, hosted the Under-17 World Cup – including the live draw and the tournament itself – and was also on the ground for ITV at the 2018 World Cup.
To many, Jaswal will be a familiar name. After all, she has featured prominently in Premier League Productions’ coverage of the top flight, and her experience reporting across Russia also saw her further taken into the wild world of TV.
Jaswal (pictured with Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante in 2018) admits she once came close to quitting
In doing so, she has further broken the mould. The male dominance over the industry has long since been an issue, and there is also a preconception that the hours spent working away in front of, or behind, a camera is swamped in judgement.
From the very moment Jaswal secured her big break, she has done everything in her power to challenge this warped viewpoint. And, slowly but surely, she is adamant that she has seen a shift.
Of course, she has played a big part in this. Jaswal grew up in a leafy area of west London and went to Royal Holloway University to study sociology and politics.
It would be easy to assume a degree like that would open some very different doors for her, but the experience, and the qualification, served only to convince her that her dreams lay elsewhere.
There were dabbles with playing sports, and a stint working at Sky Sports News followed. From that, Jaswal was awarded the first of her many opportunities to be in and around the hustle and bustle of an electric studio floor.
‘I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my career before that to be honest,’ she readily admits.
‘I grew up in a very sporty family, and played tennis. I became a tennis coach. I played all sorts of sports. I played for all the teams at school. I always thought sport could be a big part of my life, but I wasn’t sure.
‘I went to university and came out of it thinking: “I don’t want to work in this field at all.” I just wanted to try something different.
Jaswal felt guilty at her parents (above: Monty, her dad) working while she struggled for roles
‘There was an opportunity that came about to become a runner at Sky Sports News. I sent my CV in and got the job. It was that first moment walking into a TV studio and not knowing what to expect.
‘I remember seeing the studio floor, the floor manager, the gallery, and looking at the cameras and the lights to see how it all comes together to produce this incredible live content we kept rolling out.
‘I was in the news at that time, so it was just fascinating. I just thought this was what I wanted to do. It was the first time in my life I realised exactly what I wanted to do.’
She reveals her end goals kept changing ‘every five minutes’ – and also concedes that the reaction from her family and friends had initially been one of surprise.
This attitude makes her the perfect role model for the next generation of roving reporters, and this is a mantle Jaswal is more than happy to take up.
After finding success, she is now happy to provide support for aspiring presenters
‘I get lots of messages on social media from those wanting to break into the industry – not just young women, but young men as well,’ she reveals. ‘I’ve noticed the interest from females is actually increasing.
‘I hope that I am paving the way, and I’d like to think that I’m doing my bit. I try and respond to everybody that I can and help. I hope they look at me, and it gives them the belief they can break into it.’
Jaswal, in typically humble style, is quick to point out the positive influences over her own career. The likes of Gabby Logan, Clare Balding, Hazel Irvine, Kirsty Gallagher and Georgie Thompson, all broadcasting titans, are singled out for effusive praise.
These days there can be no denying that the industry is adapting, and is now more welcoming for a variety of roles in television. Jaswal admits she feels ‘lucky’ to have worked her way to the top of the mountain ‘at a time of real change’.
‘When you get a call sheet to show you who’s in on any given day, I look down it and see sometimes it’s more female presenters than male presenters,’ she adds. ‘It’s great to see more females get into those sorts of positions.
‘I’ve always worked with a number of incredible female directors, floor managers, camera ops and producers for all different sports. I work with so many. In my experience, it’s balancing.’
England begin their quest on Sunday against Croatia, with the showpiece starting on Friday
This chat may be the time to reflect back on defying the odds and triumphing, but Jaswal’s excitement for the future bursts from every ushered word. There will be nerves, of course, but she is closing in on the biggest moment of her career so far and is determined to relish it.
All of Jaswal’s meticulous preparation and steps to this point will culminate in those first words when she steps in front of the camera, and looks down its lens for the watching millions across the nation.
To many, this would be a daunting task. But to Jaswal, it’s just another memorable chapter in her ascent to the broadcasting stratosphere. With the same mindset and drive that has carried her this far, she can’t go wrong.
‘I’m really excited. It’s a really special moment in my career,’ Jaswal says, beaming away again. ‘In general, I’m very excited but, of course, also a little bit nervous. I don’t think it would be human if you weren’t a bit nervous.
‘When you’re in the studio and you hear somebody giving you the count in your ear, and suddenly you hear that you’re live and the titles roll, that’s the time where I have butterflies in my stomach. I really can’t wait.’
Seema Jaswal is presenting ITV’s Euro 2020 live coverage, which starts on June 12.
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