Alumnus Mike Wedderburn inspires staff and students across the University as part of Voices of Diversity series

Mike Wedderburn and Renae Huggan-Broughton stand together infront of the oil painting 'Ayria' by alumna Sara Osman.

Last night (14 October), alumnus and Sky Sports News presenter Mike Wedderburn spoke to more than 150 staff and students at Loughborough University about his career journey, his advice to others, and his thoughts on how racism and diversity can be tackled in sport, online and across organisations.

He was joined by Renae Huggan-Broughton, a Graduate Management Trainee who currently works within the Change team at the University.

The event was the latest in the Voices of Diversity series, and was held specially as part of the University’s programme for Black History Month.

Mike discussed his experience as a Black boy growing up in Portsmouth in the 1960s and 70s, and the well-known ‘talk’ from his parents at the age of ten where he was told he needed to work twice as hard in comparison to his white peers to be successful.

He provided an insight into his journey from playing Rugby Union at a professional level for teams such as the Harlequins and Wasps, to becoming a full-time sports television presenter at the age of 29 following injuries.

When asked what Black History Month means to him, Mike said:

It’s about Black history, Black people have been whitewashed from so much history that we didn’t know existed. It’s about educating and celebrating Black history, and it should go on for much longer than a month.

Career and personal achievements

Mike’s story emphasised the power of connections and using contacts as a resource to get you to where you want to be.

He advised students not to listen to people who tell you that you can’t do something, and instead to go for it, work incredibly hard, and reach out to others who can help you along the way and find a job you love.

Although Mike didn’t experience imposter syndrome, he explained the need to work incredibly hard at your craft, and even after 30 years of presenting he still works hard. To put this into context, he provided detail into the skills required to interview someone so you can get the best out of them, describing it as an art form.

When asked what his greatest achievement was, he stated “being a good dad, and being kind”. He also shared a phrase often used in his workplace: “You put the ladder down to help the next person up”, and explained his passion for nurturing new talent, and how emotional it feels for him to be told that he has inspired young Black journalists.

Race and racism

Mike was asked about his thoughts on race, racism and sport by Renae and in questions submitted by attendees.

He was asked about how racism should be tackled in football as well as his stance on footballers taking the knee. He felt it was a powerful moment the first time it happened, but now lacks the impact that is required to keep the momentum going.

Mike noted how the aftermath of the Euros final penalty shootout reflected the need for urgent change, and that sanctions need to be higher particularly for individuals writing racist abuse online.

Furthermore, Mike was asked about his thoughts on retaining Black talent and how organisations can be truly diverse and inclusive. He stated that those at the top are key to enabling progression, and that way more Black people will be able to break through the glass ceiling and diverse decision-making can achieve positive change.

Life at Loughborough

Mike previously studied a MSc in Sports Science at Loughborough, and he spoke about his love for the University.

He has recently joined as a member of Council, and after learning more over the last few days in his new role he reflected on how the introduction of a new Vice-Chancellor with new ideas can bring about change to the University culture: “There’s a real intention to do more, and the people with the power want to use the power positively”.

Describing the campus as ‘still having a good buzz’ despite so much of it being different to when he attended, he told the audience about how amazing his experience was studying and playing team sports, and how he’s still in touch with friends he made at Loughborough today. His recent return made him realise how magical the University is.

He encouraged students, particularly Black students, to make the most of their University life, describing it as ‘the best days of your life’.

And finally, when asked what he’d like to be remembered for, Mike said: “Being kind, giving it a good go, and just being a good bloke.”

Thank you for Mike for volunteering to give his time and share his story.

More information about the events and initiatives taking place as part of Loughborough University’s Black History Month celebrations can be found on the dedicated website.

About Voices of Diversity

The purpose of these events is to have open, honest conversations with diverse voices from a range of experiences and backgrounds to help facilitate positive change and ultimately educate the University community to make a difference, professionally and personally.

It complements other anti-racism initiatives led by the University including its membership of the Race Equality Charter; the development of a strategic approach to tackle racial inequality; undertaking surveys and focus groups with staff and students to understand better how racism shapes work and study; the improvement in reporting racist and hate incidents (and taken disciplinary action where racist behaviour has occurred), and the launch of the Guiding Principles for Race Equality Work.

Sky Sports News presenter Mike Wedderburn photographed next to the oil painting ‘Syria’ By Alumna Sara Osman.