The things FHM likes about watching live speedway on Sky Sports are mud, motorbikes, big crashes, a reminder of the pleasant but permanently damaging rush we get from sniffing petrol, and Charlie Webster.
The 27-year-old Sheffield-born TV presenter has been the face of the sport for two years and has established herself as a respected figure in a sport dominated by men covered in oil.
“Speedway is all male apart from me,” she says. “They’re all male riders, managers and presenters. But I know what I’m talking about and can hold my own. I’ve been on a speedway bike so I know how it feels and what it takes for the riders to compete at that level."
Webster loves her job, but it’s not what she’s always wanted to do. “When I was a kid, all I wanted to be was an athlete,” she explains. “I didn’t want to be a TV presenter. I started to push myself too much when I was younger and started to not enjoy running any more.”
So the life-long Sheffield United fan went to Newcastle University and worked as a model, personal trainer and fitness instructor to pay her way. Then she moved to London to do bitty things like star in a Nutri-Grain advert and interview Eric Clapton for MTV before landing a job on Real Madrid TV, in Spain, in the David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane years.
“I was brought up on football and played it at school,” she says. “It’s something I’ve loved since I was a kid. It’s my passion.”
The frequent marathon runner and black-belt in karate has since worked in America and Asia for ESPN and Star Sports, but says the UK is where she’s had to work hardest to prove herself.
“This country is so old fashioned. Asia is a place with so many different religions, some of which can be quite sexist, yet I could present football to a massive audience and
I was accepted. They believed that I knew completely what I was talking about.”
Having worked in football before getting the speedway gig she “wasn’t surprised” when John Terry and Ashley Cole’s shit hit the fan, and is frank about the morally bankrupt behaviour footballers seem to think is normal. She says: “I used to go to Chelsea matches and I’ve seen what goes on. Just because you’re a footballer doesn’t mean you can act like that.”
She responds with a firm “no way” when we suggest marrying a footballer could further her career. Speaking of which, we ask her about the slightly dubious appointment of Louise Redknapp as Tim Lovejoy’s presenting partner on the extremely dubious Sunday morning TV programme Something For The Weekend.
Having survived the hyper-masculine fuck- fest of the football world, you’d think Webster would be able to cruise into the tame-by-comparison world of regular TV presenting. But apparently it doesn’t work like that.
“It’s frustrating because I haven’t got a surname that’s famous. I’m not somebody’s daughter either and I know no one in TV, which is quite rare. But hopefully I will just keep working and my talent will just speak and I can be proud of who I am and what I can achieve.”
Sexy and profound, a rare beast indeed.
Charlie Webster presents live Elite League and Grand Prix speedway on Sky Sports