Sport

Sport Editor Oscar Ress interviews Steve Hawkes, 1993 Sport Editor of Concrete and current Head of Strategic Media at BCW Global

For Concrete’s 30th Birthday, I spoke to Steve Hawkes, a former Sports Editor about Concrete, his career, and sport. While he currently works for BCW Global, Steve boasts a successful journalism career. The highlights include almost six years as Deputy Political Editor of The Sun, Business Editor at The Sun for nearly five years, and Retail Correspondent at The Times for three and a half years. 

I asked him about when his Concrete career began: “I think it would have been 1993. I was at uni from 1990 to 1994 and I’m pretty certain it was 1993 because I did a year abroad in European history and French. When Norwich came third in the Premier League, I remember doing a story for Concrete, which was a bit bizarre, because Norwich were playing Bayern Munich. It was a bit crazy given that every national newspaper would have been writing about it, so why Concrete wanted to write about that is beyond me.”

He continued on what drove him to join Concrete: “I got a job at the student paper, it was a view to a career. I was on a four-year course and the first two years were about university life. Studying but also enjoying the experience which was incredible. You look back and university days just aren’t real life…I was interested in papers and I always loved sport and so that’s what I thought I had to do. I had never worked on a local paper at the time and so part of it was just trying out to see if I’d be any good or if I enjoyed it.”

When I asked what the most memorable UEA-specific sports stories he covered during his time, he chuckled: “I was completely unaware of what job I did on Concrete before you reminded me, so I can’t remember. I do remember I played American football for the UEA Pirates in the first couple of years. Well, I turned up for them. That was a big interest of mine and still is actually but I think I did a few stories on the American football team.” 

While he thought of more examples he reflected; “I look back now and the experiences you get from the career I wanted to have. I’d love to go back, knowing what I know now, and do it properly because I think student papers are so important. I’d love to see an issue of Concrete now. I’m glad it’s still going because they’re so important.” 

Steve reminisced about the news team: “I think it made a mark and I remember reading something after about Concrete being one of the best papers in the country and it didn’t surprise me because I think the production value of some of those guys was particularly strong. It was a very good learning curve for me – it was a great launchpad for what I went on to do.” 

Steve acknowledges that he may not have made it in journalism without Concrete: “You never know what would have happened otherwise, I know that for me, I sorely lacked direction on what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t say I was making it up as I go along, it now fits quite nicely that I did that and then went onto the magazine and journalism course. Without Concrete I wouldn’t have made it onto that course because I had no evidence of my work and so therefore it was critical.”

On the biggest moments he covered during his time working for newspapers, such as The Sun, The Times, The Daily Mirror, and The Daily Telegraph, he began hesitantly: “I’ve been fortunate. I hate talking about myself.” 

He moves on to detail a major moment in his career: “One thing that stands out is 9/11. I remember coming back with my lunch and sitting at my desk seeing a plane hit the Tower and then immediately thinking ‘what is PA’s share price doing,’ which makes me feel a bit fatalistic. That was quite a big moment writing about that.”

A large part of his journalism career was spent at The Sun: “It is Marmite, people either love it or hate it, it divides people but for me, it was the place I wanted to go. It did business news. People didn’t even realise it had a business page but for me, it was one of the best business pages because it explained things in ways people could understand…The Sun is a great way of learning to write because it explains things.”

Steve enjoyed success in using his platform: “I launched the Fuel duty campaign. I remember in January 2011, the oil price was going up and I said we should campaign to do something about fuel duty. That campaign has been in place for 10 years now and fuel duty has been frozen ever since so I suppose I was pretty instrumental in that. At The Sun, George Osborne opened up a competition for the Bank of England Governor, so for a stunt I said I wanted to apply, and the Sun Business Editor applied and launched a manifesto, it was a great laugh.”

The horsemeat scandal and a move to The Telegraph to be Consumer Affairs Editor followed before a return to The Sun, this time as Deputy Political Editor: “It was an incredible but exhausting experience, mentally, physically but was incredible. I’ve had some good times.”

On Sports journalism opportunities, his first story published in a national newspaper was on Scottish non-league football in The Telegraph earning £80 and he “felt like a king”. This was the same day Eric Cantona jumped over the barrier to karate-kick a fan. However: “I was just not getting enough work and I was not getting enough to support my career and perhaps if I had kept at it but I opted for a salary at a magazine called Cleaning News. So I went from talking about Premiership football to contract cleaners and floor wipers but it was a stable income and that was my start moving into the business.”

The next was on Arsenal’s postponement of the North London Derby: “I just think with Covid, the Premier League has got to get its house in order on that. I’m an Arsenal fan but it’s crazy because it looked like a team was playing the system. Think about the clubs lower down in the system who are struggling and you have a club here who are loaning out players. Academies everywhere, players everywhere but yet they lose one person and say we have to cancel it. They are allowed to do it under the rules so the Premier League has to buckle down on it and put some guidelines in place.” 

Asked whether there is a place for politics in sport, Hawkes said: “I would point to Tracey Crouch’s recent review of the game, which got praise from almost every quarter. It got some pushback from the Premier League, who have a vested interest. It was prompted by the European Super League and came up with some cracking proposals. Tracy is someone who was a superb backbench MP, former Cabinet minister who is very good and loves the game.” 

His frustration is that politicians use Sport, like Boris Johnson’s appearances at England games and George Osborne, whose visit to the 2012 Olympics backfired when he was booed. He admitted the government is not likely to act upon Crouch’s suggestions.  

“So I think the relationship, I fear, is just one way. Politicians use it and abuse it for their own ends. I think politicians have this knack of tapping into sport when they can, to gain credibility but sometimes it comes back to bite them.”


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08/02/2022

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Oscar Ress



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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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