LAURA Woods is surprisingly fresh-faced considering how little sleep she has had.
The 35-year-old sports presenter has spent the weekend at Glastonbury Festival — only getting home a few hours before we meet.
Laura Woods has opened up on the greatest challenge of her career and her dating lifeCredit: Mark Hayman
Laura reveals: ‘My knowledge is paramount to what I do’Credit: Mark Hayman
The sports presenter, 35, will form part of ITV’s presenting team for the FIFA Women’s World Cup – pictured above with fellow presenter Ally McCoist
“I’d never been to Glastonbury before,” she says. “I knew it was going to be cool but I didn’t know how cool — it was amazing.
“We couldn’t get out last night though, it was carnage. I ended up walking for an hour down this country lane in the dark carrying all my bags. I got home at five o’clock this morning!”
Still, it’s been good training for when Laura will form part of ITV’s presenting team for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
While the tournament is taking place in Australia and New Zealand, Laura will be in England reporting from the studio with a very anti-social time difference.
“We’ll get our work done, then hopefully sit in the sun and have a little nap and enjoy the rest of our day. That’s the positive way of looking at it,” she laughs.
The excitement surrounding the tournament is a sign of how big the women’s game has become, boosted by the England ladies lifting the Euro 2022 trophy at Wembley last year.
“I’ve always found women’s football to be really accessible. I love that about it. Sometimes in sport, we get a bit separated from the superstars and I don’t feel like we have that separation in the women’s game.
“When you go to the games, it’s really different to men’s football. It’s quite family-orientated and the atmosphere in general is really fun and welcoming.
“The standard is growing quickly as the rest of the world catches up, and I’ve been excited to be a part of it. We just get excellent pundits and the shows are fun.
“The biggest compliment that I could pay is that when I turn up to any game, the production, the input… everything is exactly the same as it would be for a men’s football game — it’s the same level of professionalism behind the cameras as it is in front. It’s done very well.”
Laura is particularly pleased that it’s turning a whole new generation of girls on to playing sport.
“There wasn’t a girls’ football team when I was at school — if you wanted to play football, you would tag along with the boys, and that wasn’t always allowed,” she says.
“I was part of a rugby team that was mixed, but I was one of the only girls in the club. You always felt a little bit like you were playing a boys’ game, rather than your own game.
“That can be quite off-putting when you get a bit older and become more self-conscious about being a girl running around with the boys.
“It’s so different now. My little sister is 14 and she is part of a girls’ football team. It’s so different but so normal.
“Everybody who works in women’s football wants it to be like that. They don’t want it to feel like it’s a token gesture. It’s just a sport that we want to play and we also want to watch.”
The Lionesses are set to kick off their first match on July 22 against Haiti – who does she think will be the stars of the tournament?
“Spain will always do well, in my opinion,” she says. “Germany is definitely always a danger. USA, even though the team’s getting a little bit older, they are quite far ahead of other countries in terms of their development.
She adds: “With England, we have a number of injuries — the timing is quite heartbreaking.
“But the England team has a lot of strength — our bench is always stacked full of talent — so I do have this feeling that although we’re going to miss a lot of big players, there will be a coming-of-age of others, like Lauren James.
“You’ve seen a bit of her already, but she’s going to be a superstar. There’s something about her that is very, very special.”
Laura knows a thing or two herself about blazing a trail in what was a traditionally male-dominated arena.
In 2020, she joined talkSPORT’s flagship breakfast show, co-hosting alongside Ally McCoist from 6 am to 10 am.
Laura joined talkSPORT’s flagship breakfast show in 2020 alongside Ally McCoistCredit: Instagram/Laura Woods
She says of her recent departure: ‘It was a really hard decision [to leave] but those hours are brutal, and I felt like it was the right time credit: Mark Hayman
She’s since gone on to scoop multiple awards for her coverage, including Best Speech Breakfast Show at the ARIAS in 2021, before recently deciding to step down. Her last show aired on June 28.
“I really tried not to cry doing the announcement, because I just didn’t want to let the emotion take over,” she admits.
“It was a really hard decision [to leave] but those hours are brutal, and I felt like it was the right time.
“People say it’s important to go out on a high, and the breakfast show is in a great place at the moment.
“The last time I spoke to Fabulous in 2020, I’d just started on the show and I was feeling swamped. It was in the middle of Covid and there was no actual sport to talk about.
“It was the biggest challenge of my career, and of my life at the time. I was living on my own and I felt very isolated, very lonely, and like I couldn’t show the world what I could do with that show.
“I didn’t have any of the tools I needed, but I learned to work through it. Then sport came back. It was unbelievable — I’ve never felt anything like that. It was just such a relief.”
She certainly is leaving on a high after winning over their 3.6 million listeners, who were worried about her replacing seasoned pro Alan Brazil.
“I definitely think it’s made me a more confident person and brought me to where I am now,” she says.
“It’s such a cliché, but just being yourself is your biggest strength.
“It’s the only thing you have that separates you from anybody else, so having that time in that space to grow into myself and be my own person was a gift that I didn’t know I was being given at the very beginning, so I’ll miss it a lot.”
Laura has previously talked about sexism in the industry and how she was accused of “flirting” with every man she interviewed. Now, she says, thankfully, it has become much less frequent.
“When I was younger, it was a question people asked me a lot. Now, I love the environment and it’s a lot more diverse than people may think.
“There’s probably still a little way to go, but it’s not an alien world for me. It’s a place that I find a lot of comfort in.
“If you listened to my show or watched the things I present, it would be really difficult to accuse me of not having any knowledge in my job.
“You wouldn’t get in the door if you didn’t have the knowledge. You would be found out very quickly. It’s like saying: ‘I want to be a plumber’, but you don’t know how to be a plumber.
“If you don’t have a grasp of what’s going on, you’re never going to get to the top. My knowledge is paramount to what I do. You’d be in a bit of trouble if you tried to challenge me on it as well!”
Getting up at silly o’clock to host the breakfast show hasn’t been conducive to her love life either, and Laura has been single after splitting from former England rugby player Alex Corbisiero just before she turned 30. She’s dated since, but hasn’t had time to pursue anything serious.
“I am single, but I’m also dating,” she says. “That’s a part of my life that I have learned to keep private.
“I don’t want to put my whole life out there for everybody to see. I want to keep some things like ‘that person’ more sacred.
“But yes, it is hard. It’s like: ‘Would you like to go for brunch… after I’ve had a nap?’” she laughs. “It’s had a massive effect on a lot of my life.”
As for what’s coming up career-wise after the World Cup, Laura shakes her head when asked about rumours she’s signed a big deal to take over from Jake Humphrey on TNT Sports (previously BT Sport).
“I know, I’ve seen a lot of articles, but I haven’t signed anything,” she says.
“There are a couple of offers, but I’ve got a glorious month off now where I can sit down and start planning the next things. I don’t want to rush into anything.
“I’ve never been able to have that privilege in my life before. Never. I’ve always been 100 miles per hour in my career.
“I used to have this work ethic of taking absolutely everything, because I knew that it would teach me something.
“I didn’t care what it was, I would do it, and it was brilliant. It definitely got me to where I am now. But now, I have earned the right to take a step back and think: ‘What is right for me next?’
“I’d really love to get healthy. I want to be able to exercise more and take my dog for long walks.
“I’m just tired of feeling tired. I want to give my family and friends more of my attention.
“I really want to prioritise that part of my life more. I’d like to have a bit more of a routine for myself and think about what’s next, and I want to have a clear head to be able to do that.”
The Laura of today is much more self-assured and confident than the last time we spoke. Perhaps because she has realised she is more than capable of her job and has proved the doubters wrong.
She nods: “I’ve grown up. I’m 35 now, and I see the world differently to how I did before.
“It’s so different to 10 years ago and where I thought my life and my confidence levels were. I’m so much more comfortable in my skin now.
“I’ve experienced a lot of things and my career has moved forward. I work a lot on who I want to be.
“I control what makes me happy, and who I want to spend my time with. I’ve learned so much from people around me. Valuing yourself and your relationships — ultimately that’s what it’s all about for me.”