Trail blazer Kervin named first woman sports editor

Alison Kervin, who has made a habit of trail-blazing, has been appointed the first woman sports editor of a British national newspaper.

Breaking new ground, again: Alison Kervin
Breaking new ground, again: Alison Kervin

Mail on Sunday editor Geordie Greig has boldly gone where no one has gone before with the landmark decision to put a woman in charge of the sports desk.

Fleet Street has finally creaked its way into the 21st Century. Then again, Kervin’s CV neatly side-steps the gender trap.

The rugby analogy is deliberate. Kervin was the first female editor of Rugby World magazine, ditto the rugby editor at The Times, the first woman to referee at Twickenham and the first woman presenter on Rugby Special.

She joined Rugby World in 1994 and within three years she was publisher of IPC sports publications, which included Shoot and Golf Monthly.

Kervin is also a former chief sports feature writer for The Times, chief sports interviewer for the Daily Telegraph and has written many books including a biography of Sir Clive Woodward and ghosting autobiographies for Phil Vickery, Jason Leonard and Denise Lewis. More recently she has turned to novel writing.

The sports science graduate has coaching qualifications in 10 sports and was good enough at gymnastics to make the England squad.

No wonder Greig says: “Alison is a hugely impressive figure in the sports world with a sporting pedigree few sports editors can rival.

“Of course, it really doesn’t matter whether the Mail on Sunday‘s sports editor is a man or a woman – but I can think of no better candidate to break the mould than Alison.”

David Walker, the deputy chairman of the Sports Journalists’ Association as well as being the sports editor of another Sunday red top, the Sunday Mirror, congratulated Kervin on her appointment.

“Alison’s landed a marvellous job as her first sports editorship,” Walker said.

“In the past I spent many years at the Daily Mail and three years as deputy sports editor of the Mail on Sunday, so I’m well aware of the talented group of journalists she is inheriting. As well as some outstanding, award-winning writers and reporters, the MoS has a gifted production team. I’m sure they’ll help her step into her new role.

“It’s a brave appointment which may surprise some people but I wish her well. This is a ground-breaking initiative.”

Kervin starts next month as successor to long-standing Malcolm Vallerius, who left last week.

He was popular and well-respected, so Kervin’s first task will be to win the support of the remaining staff but that would apply to whoever had the job. She also inherits one woman reporter in Martha Kelner.

Kervin joins an elite group of national newspaper sports editors. Most of her peers are young enough or sufficiently enlightened to greet her arrival with genuine warmth and goodwill.

There is no doubt, however, that she will be subject to intense scrutiny when she starts to edit the near 30 pages of sport produced by the MoS each week.

Think Jacqui Oatley when she became the first woman football commentator on Match of the Day.

The BBC have been ground-breakers with regard to employing women in the sports department – Barbara Slater has been director of sport for four years.

In comparison, the print industry has been desperately slow to catch up, especially the tabloids.

With Kervin’s appointment, another barrier has been broken down. There is still a major one to go, though. First woman chief football writer, anyone?

Make sure you don’t miss out on the gala celebration of the best of British sports journalism by booking your ticket – or even a table – for the SJA British Sports Journalism Awards on Monday March 25 at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London’s Covent Garden.

The event begins at 6pm, with a champagne reception and opportunity to view an exhibition of many of the leading entries in the photography categories, prior to a three-course dinner followed by the presentation of the awards.

There are special ticket discounts available to paid-up SJA members. But hurry – tickets are already selling fast.

Click here for a booking form, or contact our event organisers, Start2Finish, on 020 8916 2492 or by email to for more details.

JOIN THE SJA and benefit from a recognised press card, priority entry to key events and significant discounts and members’ offers on a range of activities