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Interview Gabby Logan: Being Gabby.

Byline: THE CATHERINE JONES INTERVIEW

DRESSED in a tailored leather jacket and combats, Gabby Logan cuts an effortlessly glamorous figure as she walks through the newsroom of The Western Mail.

She's a little bit of TV polish in the shabby world of print, standing in front of the camera to deliver her links while hacks tap away at computers in the background - an apparently industrious backdrop to First Past the Post, Logan's latest show for ITV1 Wales.

The series is a kind of political version of Pop Idol - where any old Joe can audition to become a face in Welsh politics and Logan, 29, is making a good fist of showing her usual professional enthusiasm.

In a break from the camera, she talks diplomatically about the ``amazingly diverse range of characters'' which have included a singing Elvis impersonator, a man with a blue rinse and another in high-heeled shoes.

When they showed up to woo the judges with a minute's political message, one imagines that Logan continued to smile. Perhaps she was wondering if broadening her presenting repertoire was really worth leaving behind the familiarity of On The Ball, which features the pick of games from British and European football.

Then again, she radiates such determination - this is a girl who, aged 15, asked a Blue Peter producer for a job - it's unlikely she would let a few oddballs get her down. In the past, she has said that the harder you work, the better you will be . . . unless you're a genius or gifted there is no other way to succeed.

``Yes, I am ambitious,'' she says, as though she doesn't really think she is. ``But only for me to see what I can achieve - not to kind of rule the world. I just want to push myself. Yes, that kind of determined attitude probably does come from a sporting background.''

Named Sports Presenter of the Year 2001 by the Television and Radio Industries Club, Logan's sporting credentials are impeccable. She became an international gymnast as a teenager when she represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand. She is the daughter of Terry Yorath, former Leeds United player and Wales manager, and is married to Wasps and Scottish international rugby player Kenny Logan.

Logan is part of a growing number of female sports presenters on British television with famous sporting dads - Sky Sports News employs Kirsty Gallacher (daughter of the former Ryder Cup captain Bernard) and Kelly Dalglish (daughter of the former Liverpool star Kenny). But Logan - nee Yorath - is the only one to date to have arrived on terrestrial television. ``My career didn't happen by accident,'' she says. ``You have to put the hours in and make sure you get experiences - that's one thing I saw early on - that you have to be ready when the chance comes because it would be too bad not to feel ready for an amazing experience, especially if the thing you really wanted to do came along. I want to be in a position where I can handle it.''

Is she talking about the top job at ITV - rumours have been rife that she will take over the prime role from Des Lynam on The Premiership when he finally retires?

``There are lots of things I'd like to do. I am not the number one sports person at ITV and you always want to get to that top point. It's not really in my nature to not reach a bit further - and I'd definitely like to do other areas of television.

``Television has been moving towards the reality TV programmes and ITV pushed those onto the network. Would I want to go that way or not? Perhaps chat show-based programmes would be interesting - if you have got ideas and push them, it's possible to get them on.''

On television, she appears translucent. In the flesh, she's got fine-boned features that verge on sharpness. Her brown eyes seem slightly green, all darting intelligence and down-to-earth kindness. Her mood is no-nonsense but very polite. She won't trample on anyone in her path but she certainly wants the show on the road.

``I have worked in broadcasting for 10 years and did some journalism as well as drama - I took a play to Edinburgh - at university. I've always wanted a career in the media,'' she says.

After studying law at Durham University - where she gained the first-ever Ryan Giggs interview for the college newspaper - Logan worked for a series of local radio stations including stints on Metro FM, Lovelinks TFM and Metro Sport, before being offered a job on Sky Sports in 1996. She covered ice hockey, Britain's Strongest Man and Goals on Sunday before being head-hunted by ITV in 1998 to present On The Ball.

She was 25, and unfazed by the challenge. ``It was a really big gamble on ITV's part to ask a woman to present a football show. I think I spent the first year going through the motions a bit but after that there was an attitude shift in my head, a realisation that I'd been given a big chance.''

Last year she was a key member of ITV's World Cup team, not in Japan and Korea but back in England in the hot seat, a challenge she described as a ``baptism of fire''.

Those who have worked with her are full of praise. Terry Venables says she's got an outstanding personality, Ally McCoist calls her very professional and very good at what she does, and Des Lynam says, ``She's a good broadcaster who knows her subject matter and happens to be female and very beautiful into the bargain. It's not a bad recipe.''

As a woman in the world of television prime-time football, Logan is aware fans may be more critical of her than of a male colleague - despite the fact that she often does better than the rest of the Premiership show's crew when they do the pre-broadcast trivia quiz.

``Ally can say things that aren't necessarily factually correct and get away with it,'' she has said. ``But if I get something wrong as a woman, there are going to be a lot more people telling me about it.''

Leeds born, Logan moved with her family, living in places such as Coventry, Bradford, London and Vancouver before returning to Leeds when she was about 11. Although she never lived in Wales, all her father's family live in Cardiff and she visits every six months.

She attended football matches all over the country when her father was manager of Coventry and Wales. Now, she has been known to do four shows in a week - as well as being an ardent Newcastle United fan and lover of training, yoga and tennis.

ITV are fairly strict about what they will allow her to do and it probably helps that ITV1 Wales only goes out in a limited area and is therefore seen as not conflicting with her other work.

Her presenting in Wales has previously involved Presenters - another Pop Idol style reality show to find new front men and women for ITV1 Wales.

``Presenters was really good fun. Gradually though, as people were knocked out, it got more serious for them and less fun for us. We were all really surprised how much we got into it by the end. Even the crew were following people through. You really cared how well someone did.''

She sees the new politics version as slightly more ``I think you have to be a bit of an actor to be a politician,'' she says. ``Doing a law degree I saw that among my fellow students who debated and mooted - they were really amazing speakers. You've got to be so convinced and so convincing so people have to take on a role.''

She herself enjoys the adrenaline rush of live television and finds smoothing over on-air problems satisfying. ``There can be times when something goes wrong on On The Ball and you have to make it appear as though everything is running perfectly. Live, you can't say, Can we do that again and in any case your professionalism prevents you from wanting to keep doing it.

``It's a really nice feeling if you do manage to sort something out. We had a live link to Japan last year for the group draws for the World Cup. A live link to Japan and we lost it minutes before. In the middle of a piece, I knew it was going so I had to start filling in with extra questions. It does give you a buzz but nobody comes to pay you a compliment and of course everyone else shouldn't know you've done it.''

Logan, who turns 30 on 24 April, married Kenny Logan in the summer of 2001. When they first met, he thought she was Gaby Roslin, which still amuses Logan.

``Kenny says to pretend we met at a sporting event because it sounded better than in a bar at 2am in the morning. But I said to him there's no point - we might as well tell the truth or it will come out somewhere.''

What's Kenny like? He's very positive and happy and upbeat, very centred, very relaxed, he's not a dour Scot. Two of his friends were staying recently and I asked one of them when he was going to stop living up to hisnational stereotype. I asked him, `When you come across the border, do they take your passport and say, Here's your miserable stamp, sir'?''

Their wedding pictures appeared in Hello! and Logan has become used to being an object of appeal to paparazzi.

``With Kenny also being in the business I suppose we are both known. It's a double hit in that sense. People might not know him or me but they put two and two together when they see us both.''

Logan says they don't do celebrity stuff ``over and above what we do for our jobs - we aren't the types to go to the opening of envelope, we're both too busy with work and I like my privacy''.

Recently she was followed around her London neighbourhood for two hours by a paparazzi. ``We have a few famous faces in the area but it's not teeming with them. He waited outside a cafe and then I had to go to the bank to get some money for our builders and he followed me round the block. You do start to think what is it all about - what have I done?

``I haven't got a guilty conscience. And then I got a parking ticket because I had to dash into the bank. I kind of knew I was going to get one . I suppose he was happy because he went then. He got his picture of me with the ticket!''

Logan says both she and her husband have been told that agreeing to having their picture taken will result in a donation to an (unspecified) charity - which makes them feel guilty about not agreeing.

``We are both committed to lots of charities. Kenny would like to work full-time for charities when he gives up rugby. '' The couple has spent a couple of Christmases in a homeless shelter on behalf of the Crisis charity, and Logan is the patron of around six charities including the Prince's Trust. She is also patron of the national heart muscle disease charity, the Cardiomyopathy Association as a result of her brother, Daniel's, death.

In May 1992, 15-year-old Daniel, who had just signed as an apprentice footballer for his father's former team Leeds United, was kicking a ball around in the back garden when he collapsed and died from a rare heart condition. Caused by thickening of the walls of the heart, it is seen a silent killer that strikes without warning.

Logan's mother, Christine, now raises money for a charity in her brother's name and Logan feels he is still close by. Although she admits to getting emotional when she talks about it, she has said Daniel's death rocked the Yorath family and that nothing is ever the same again.

She will miss Kenny this year with his rugby commitments (today he'll help the Scots take on our Welsh boys) - the couple like to fish and play golf - although they spent only two nights last summer in Kenny's family farmhouse, near Stirling, where his mother still lives.

Kenny will be training for the Rugby World Cup in Scotland and wants to quit after the World Cup - ``but he can still play domestically because he's only 30,'' she says. ``This year will be quite tough because he's never been away for so long before.''

She'llbe at the Ireland game and although she will miss her husband's company, there are family meetings to enjoy.

Her mother, Christine, a property developer in Leeds, comes to London quite a lot with charity work and Logan jokes that she returns to Leeds to use her mother's contacts and get cut-price goodies for the couple's new house.

``We've moved just round the corner from where we were before in London. We haven't done anything physically ourselves on the house.

``Kenny likes to think he's good at DIY - as he said growing up on a farm, if the tractor broke down in the middle of the field it was much more practical to mend it yourself rather than traipse across the field to get someone.

There's a holiday in Miami coming up, with her younger sister, Louise, who is a model living in Las Vegas, and she may go somewhere nice with Kenny at the end of June.

``With Kenny travelling so much with rugby, he doesn't want to go on a long-haul flight. But when I go away I want to get away.''

She loves coming to Cardiff and often visits her grandmother. On this occasion, Logan was the first to bring up the subject of babies. ``Actually my granny didn't mention it and I ended up bringing it up before she did because I thought, I'll get in there before she does. ``A friend of Kenny's friend is getting married in April and she's got pregnant, without meaning to, before it. I told her that she had done it the right way round and that she won't have people going, `When are you going to start a family?' ``I suppose I am the one expected to produce the children - I don't think my sister is going to get pregnant at the moment and my brother, Jordan is 17.'' That must be Logan's way of saying 'cut'. She has neatly avoided a rather private issue by being chatty but firm.

Gabby Logan hosts First Past The Post on ITV1 Wales, Monday at 11pm Wales play Scotland at Murrayfield today at 4pm

CAPTION(S):

Clockwise from top left, Gabby and Kenny's wedding day; with her best friend Kirsty Gallacher; playing footie with her brother Daniel, who died aged 15; family portrait; early sporting star; and centre, an ITV publicity shot
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Mar 8, 2003
Words:2498
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