Kick It Out’s Raise Your Game conference, supported by the Premier League, heads to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Monday 16 April, for the eighth instalment of the mentoring conference.

The event will offer mentoring opportunities to attendees who wish to forge a career in football, with the chance to meet industry professionals with knowledge and experience of working in the sport.

Sky Sports presenter Bianca Westwood is co-hosting this year’s RYG conference, having previously attended the conference as a mentor in 2016. We spoke to Bianca ahead of the event, to discuss her love of football, and how she forged her pathway into the sports broadcasting industry.

Growing up in a football-loving family, alongside five brothers, saw Bianca fall in love with football at an early age. Weekends were spent at Upton Park, where she was a long-term season ticket holder, or watching her brothers on a Sunday. Unfortunately, a lack of playing opportunities in her local area meant Bianca was never able to pursue a playing career in the game.

“I used to play in the garden with my brothers, but there was no outlet for me to play football at my school. It’s a shame really, I would have loved to have pursued it that way. I don’t know if I’d have been any good, I always thought I was. I was a legend in the back garden!”

The switch to sports reporting came through chance, when a work experience placement at Sky Sports saw her offered a permanent position, working on the NFL. 17 years later Bianca has climbed her way through Sky, where she is now a regular reporter on Soccer Saturday, the first female reporter to work on the show.

“It wasn’t something I’d always dreamed of, because there were no women to watch as I was growing up. I didn’t know that it was something that I could do, until I did it.”

The lack of role models as she moved through her career has inspired Bianca to work with Kick It Out, and she is passionate about providing knowledge and leadership to those who wish to follow in her footsteps or forge their own path in the game.

“It’s really nice to be able to impart knowledge and experience. It’s not always just about gender, race, it’s about social mobility as well.

“It’s about meeting young people who maybe come from less privileged backgrounds like my own, to show that you can do it. You can be the first, you can blaze your own trail! If you don’t see anyone who looks like you, comes from where you’re from, talks like you, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”

Ahead of co-hosting Raise Your Game, Bianca offered her thoughts on what attendees should take away from the event.

“I hope they will get an insight into what you have to do, what it takes. There are so many different ways of getting into the industry, but you need to be able to stand out. I think anyone that comes away from RYG will have at least some knowledge of how to get involved in the game that we all love.”