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

TRT World anchor and correspondent Samantha Johnson is co-hosting this year’s RYG conference, alongside Bianca Westwood. We spoke to Sam ahead of the event, to discuss her love of football and how she forged her pathway into the sports broadcasting industry.

In a career that has spanned many industries and continents, Sam’s life in journalism began at a music magazine, where she honed skills and built her network before making the move into sports journalism that has since seen her relocate to Istanbul to front ‘Beyond The Game’ for TRT World. Sam can trace back to the moment her motivation to work in sports broadcasting began.

“I remember watching Olympics with my grandad, and I thought that it would be so cool working on something like that! Getting to anchor and getting to follow great athletes and great stories. I was always a fan of football coverage and how it was done. I loved listening to phone-ins! Fan opinions, whether they were angry with their teams, I loved the discussions and debates. I’ve always known what I wanted to do, I just didn’t know how to get in.

“When I first got in I found it quite intimidating. There’s a lot of people who got into where they got to because of who their parents are or because they went to a really expensive school. I don’t come from any of those backgrounds, and if you’re a working class girl, black as well, how do I get into such a close knit industry? To get your foot in the door and stay there as well, it’s difficult.”

Looking back at her career, Sam found that while she undoubtedly faced numerous barriers in achieving her goals, her harshest critic was always herself, and hopes that through her involvement with Kick It Out she can encourage others to have more confidence in themselves.

“I think the biggest barrier that I had was the one in my head. I kept giving myself all these excuses. I would think ‘why would they want someone like me, I’m not the blonde, posh female on TV. I’m not that. Why would they want me?’ But my mental process should have been ‘I’ve got a lot to give. Yes I’m not like her, but I’m better.’ I wish I’d had that mind-set in the beginning, rather than doubting myself so much.

“I think that’s why I love the fact that I got to mentor with Kick It Out. You get to pass on your advice, and guide the next generation into how to get into the industry, because it’s difficult! I wish there was something like this at the beginning of my career, so I wouldn’t have felt so alone, so isolated.

“I’m glad that we can actually give back and guide, so that people can ask the little questions, which you might think are stupid but they’re not; they’re the questions that I would have asked when I was starting out as well.”

Ahead of Raise Your Game, Sam offered some advice to people seeking a career in sports journalism today: “Be persistent! You have to be multi-talented. If you want to be a reporter, hone your skills as a reporter, but you’ve got to learn how to edit, how to write and how to network, not just on social media but face to face as well.”

“I hope the mentees leave the event feeling inspired and optimistic about their future and their careers.”