North Londonlocal Rachael Downie is on a mission to change the way females are perceived in certain sports. First motorsports, now darts – this is the TV presenter who is keen on changing opinions

Rachael Downie may just be the ultimate tomboy. I am sitting in The Bull in Islington, drinks on the go, reminiscing about how the first time I met her it was all about cars – and now the conversation has progressed to darts. ‘I still think I am really girly,’ she counters, ‘I just want to find sports where not a lot of women are represented and I have become passionate about that. I have always loved motorsports and I am still doing that, but I want to branch out into things that not many women represent – like darts.’

At the time of meeting, the first auditions for The Darts Factor are a week away, where plenty of hopefuls are preparing their arrows to be in with a chance of appearing in the televised finals on Sky channel Showcase (happening right now). Darts, as a business, is huge today – just watch the tournaments and the Premier League on Sky Sports to see the packed crowds and how it has become a real glitzy affair – but this programme is different. ‘It’s more interview-led,’ Rachael explains, ‘it has more personality, and it’s a darts tournament mixed with the X Factor [hence the name]. We have more banter, we can get to know people, and it hopefully will change people’s perceptions of what they think darts is about.’

Expect a judging panel to rival that seen ITV’s behemoth, and both male and female participants. ‘I remember darts as one of those things that wasn’t really approachable,’ Rachael says when we talk about how she watched motorsports as a child. ‘I wouldn’t say it was an old boys’ club, but it had an air of guys in a pub watching it. It’s changing now because it’s becoming quite cool. It’s quite exciting to be a part of a sport that is getting really popular, but I still think it can be more accessible to different people – and women in particular. In The Darts Factor we have got female darts players and you need more of those. Again, you think it’s all guys down the pub and it’s an image that would be good to change, so people do realise it’s a very skilled sport.’

Rachael’s career to date is not all sport – she actively writes and hits the red carpet to present shows too – but there’s no doubting the kind of direction she would like to see her career going in. ‘I want to work at the Olympics in Rio in two years,’ she says determinedly. ‘I really respect Clare Balding, that’s who I want to be: not stuck just in a studio, you are going out interviewing, on location, writing, coming up with programme ideas and getting that respect. If I cover sports that are changing, I could be a part of that. So I would like Clare Balding’s career please!’ she laughs. ‘If you get a quarter of that, you would have done well. In this industry you have to keep reinventing yourself and your work, coming up with fresh ideas. And that keeps things fresh for me too.’

The Resident: Rachael Downie is looking to change how we perceive certain sportsRachael Downie is looking to change how we perceive certain sports

Discussing how she likes to head out into Islington to write – as well as waking at 3am to scribble away at home – it’s clear she has the passion to take the TV industry by storm. But for now the focus is on The Darts Factor. ‘It will be interesting to see how people react to me,’ Rachael says on being a female presenter on what is seen as traditionally a man’s sport. ‘In a way I hope the first impression is a little along the lines of sexist banter so I can turn that around, instead of people being on their tiptoes all the time. You want to be treated the same way. So going back to your original question, I wouldn’t necessarily say I am a tomboy, I just see an opportunity where a female can change a person’s perspective. I am challenged by that more when it comes to sport.’

Words: Mark Kebble

Follow Rachael on Twitter @rachaeldownie, where you can find out about her new role on Arise TV, and catch The Darts Factor on Showcase, Sky channel 192