Across the patchwork quilt that is the American soccer landscape, one constant is evident — the prevalence of British talent. Connoisseurs of soccer cheer triumphantly at this fact. After all, the Brits invented the modern game. Among the numerous illuminati that can be found on our television sets, one exemplifies the soccer generation. Kay Murray of beIN SPORTS combines the wit, charm and fastidious intellect of the millennial generation.
A native of Middlesbrough, England, she came of age just as a new dawn of soccer was breaking. Introduced to soccer at an early age by her grandfather, she fell in love with the game during an iconic tournament.
“I fell in love with the game during Italia 90, when the England national team captured and broke my heart in the space of a few weeks,” she said.
This World Cup not only transformed English soccer, it planted the seeds for Murray’s career to later blossom. It also affected her fashion sense during those halcyon days.
“That same year, I went to a fancy dress party dressed as England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. I also wore the England replica tracksuit for my annual school photo,” she said.
It was truly love at first sight. William Shakespeare or Lord Byron could not have written her betrothment to soccer more eloquently.
Coming of age during the 1990s, she was exposed to the advent of Sky Sports. The UK network promoted female presenters from the start, and Murray took notice. As matriculation approached, she knew her profession would be in football. Initially she considered sports management but soon focused on football journalism. Print that is, the gold standard of the written word.
Her career began at the now defunct Boro TV, the official broadcast station of her beloved Middlesbrough. During her one season at the station, she co-produced and co-presented a live pre-match show. She gained valuable experience and an a knack for reporting. A move to London to study journalism became her next stop on her private soccer express.
“I just knew I wanted to work in football. I wouldn’t change my role now,” she said
While in London attending a private journalism university, she detoured from football when she became the on-air host for Bid Up TV. The channel was a popular “selly telly” program that aired on cable television seven days a week. In addition to paying her way through college, she gained valuable broadcast experience. The programs she presented were live and unscripted prompting her to learn quick thinking and agility in front of the camera. Her earpiece was open talk back thus while live on air she heard the director and the chaos of the control room. She credits this in helping prepare her for her swift rise through the television ranks.
“Let’s put it this way,” Murray said. “If you need someone to sell you a kettle, a set of fluffy towels or a fondue set convincingly, I’m your girl!”
After university, she applied to work for Real Madrid TV ahead of the launch of their international channel. Though she was a finalist for the position, she was not hired. Displaying the traditional British pluck and stiff upper lip, she persevered and a year later she was hired by the channel.
Her tenure in Madrid, that began in 2006, were the best of times and the worst of times. She gained valuable experience and learned new skills. However, she had health issues (more on that later).
During her first season with the team, she worked off-air writing and producing along with editing work as well. Her second season brought a promotion and her own show to host. She also traveled with the team as a pitch side reporter.
Her first season in Spain saw Real Madrid win a memorable La Liga title and was also the final hurrah for David Beckham in a Real Madrid shirt. Just as she felt the tug of a wandering eye, the curtain was raised on the Jose Mourinho era at the Bernabeu. She simply had to stay put.
“There was no way I was going to miss out on that era,” she said.
All was not sunshine and roses in Spain though. During 2008, she became critically ill and spent ten days in a Madrid hospital where she was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a severe inflammation of the colon. She suffered for three months prior to her hospital stay, the worst months of her life.
After her discharge from hospital, she began her battle with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, the chronic presentation of Ulcerative Colitis. It is a terrible disease and those afflicted often suffer in the shadows. However, she has spoken candidly about her fight with the disease. Others diagnosed with the disease, including West Bromwich’s midfielder Darren Fletcher, have spoken publicly to end the stigma of the disease and help unite others who suffer from it.
When she arrived in Madrid as an English rose from the industrial north, she spoke limited Spanish which led to early struggles with the Spanish bureaucracy. Quickly adapting, she learned the language and the importance of being open to new cultures and experiences. Her time at Real Madrid molded her not only as a journalist but as a person as well.
In 2013, she was hired by beIN SPORTS ahead of the launch of their US channel. Though she loved Madrid, the chance to come to America was one she couldn’t miss. Besides covering and promoting her beloved La Liga, she would also be covering numerous other leagues and competitions.
While the transition to Miami was a learning curve, she soon settled in and brought her renowned work ethic to US sports television. Soccer was blossoming and breaking free of its underground status, and beIN SPORTS was part of the explosion in popularity of the sport.
She began presenting not just a single team or even one league but five leagues each week as well as numerous competitions including La Liga, Serie A, Ligue Un, the Championship and Capital One Cup, among others. Here she came into her own and blossomed through sheer hard work.
Her passion for the sport is easily visible but so too is her preparation. She researches and takes notes in the days leading up to matches. Aiming to gather a complete picture, she tries to gather all she can so when the final whistle blows she is able to report the ramifications of it.
Each show she presents is a little different but she prepares in-depth for each. The Locker Room shows she hosts are preview/review shows and she is heavily involved in the production of them. Always on the prowl for the quirky moments of soccer, she looks to include them for the benefits of the fans.
“I have never really felt comfortable if I’m not contributing to that side of things as well,” she said.
The people at beIN SPORTS make the network. She truly enjoys her coworkers and the time spent with them. In fact, she looks forward to working on weekends.
“I get to talk about the sport I love every day. I get to devour and study the game I love,” she proudly said.
Outside of football, she is still a kid at heart. Besides running and yoga, she enjoys drawing and visiting water parks. Oh, and enjoying Miami because, well, it’s Miami.
Soccer is never far from her thoughts though. It was and remains her first love and is her passion. Kay without soccer would survive, soccer without Kay would be boring and dull. From the stands of Ayresome Park, the touchlines of El Clasico to American television screens, she remains the same. An English rose that represents the best soccer has to offer.