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TV presenter Simon Thomas has opened up on the life of being ‘truly freelance’ after years working at the BBC and Sky Sports.
Thomas stepped back from working full time in the industry after the sudden death of his wife Gemma in 2017 four days after she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
After 18 years in the industry, he took time off to look after his eight-year-old son, essentially tearing up his contract at Sky, where he was their lead football presenter.
He has since re-built his career, now commonly seen presenting on channels such as Amazon Prime Video.
In a LinkedIN post, the 50-year-old has spoken on how he missing his full-time gigs, his thrill of being a freelancer, and the up-and-down nature of the role he’s taken up over the last three years.
TV presenter Simon Thomas has opened up on the struggles of working as a freelancer in broadcast
Thomas left Sky Sports to take time out after losing wife Gemma to cancer in November 2017
The Sky Sports presenter, 50, lost his partner just three days after she was diagnosed with adult acute myeloid leukemia in 2017
Thomas explained his feelings in a lengthy post on his LinkedIN account earlier in the week
‘For many many years, whilst I was technically freelance – I wasn’t really’, Thomas began.
‘For eighteen or so years at the BBC with Blue Peter & then on to Sky Sports I was on either one, two or even three year contracts. For a broadcaster, these contracts were absolute gold dust. I was incredibly fortunate.
‘Financially I had security, I could make plans, I could put money aside for holidays, pay into pensions & rainy day funds.’
Thomas stepped away from presenting almost instantly after the death of his wife and wasn’t seen on screens for three years.
When he returned in 2020 with Amazon, he shared an emotional social media post explaining his situation.
Three years on from his return, Thomas explained how he knows he did the right thing in stepping away, but that life is slightly uncomfortable working in the freelance world.
‘Almost five years on I still know deep down it was the right decision; but as I’ve slowly tried to rebuild my career; its left me in the strange new world of being truly freelance’, he wrote.
‘That world of one minute feeling busy and fulfilled with a packed work calendar, to then turning the page & seeing empty weeks stretching ahead & feeling a sense of disconcerting emptiness.
The 50-year-old explained how he sometimes feels ‘a sense of disconcerting emptiness’
‘I’ve quickly learnt that being freelance in broadcast is not for the faint hearted. One minute you can feel on top of the world wondering how you’re going to fit everything in; next you’re feeling that uncomfortable anxiety pondering where the next gig is going to come from. Is the rainy day fund going to run dry?
‘Part of me loves the excitement of the unknown; the not knowing what might come next; but perhaps a bigger part of me craves a return to the days of a decent degree of certainty.’
Thomas of course could return to a more full-time gig in the future as he continues to re-build his career.
He has now re-married and has since welcomed his first child with wife Derrina, explaining at the time that he felt ‘proud and blessed’ to welcome his baby daughter to the world.
Thomas has re-married to Derrina (right), and the couple have had their first child together
Speaking on ITV’s Loose Women last month, Thomas revealed how he drank a bottle of vodka every night in the wake of Gemma’s death in a battle with alcoholism.
He said: ‘I had given up in the August of 2017, but I had done it for other people.
‘If you’re doing it for your kids, your loved ones, you’re almost always destined to fail.
‘When Gemma did die, for the first three weeks, that combining alcohol with grief and trauma was a really bad idea.
‘But when the funeral comes and goes, the true reality of it really hits.
‘After that funeral, after that battle, I walked into the kitchen and saw this bottle of gin and said to myself, “Go on, you deserve it.”‘
When asked whether his son Ethan, then eight, was aware, Simon replied: ‘I don’t think then he was. I’ll be bold enough to say you become quite secretive.
‘I had ways of pouring stuff in Diet Coke cans. A bottle of vodka, not every night but a lot of nights.
‘It releases you from how you’re feeling, but then I found that almost every single time it brings you to dark places.’
Last year, Simon revealed he and Ethan, now 13, had therapy sessions after his wife Gemma died of blood cancer, with her symptoms being dismissed as ‘stress’.
He said his late wife had started to experience headaches, night sweats, bruising and fatigue but her symptoms were dismissed as stress-related when she visited her local surgery three times.
In November 2017, she developed a bruise on her thigh and her headaches worsened, and she was later rushed to A&E but tragically died three days after her blood cancer diagnosis.
Last year, Simon revealed he and Ethan, now 13, had therapy sessions after his wife Gemma died of blood cancer, with her symptoms being dismissed as ‘stress’
He said his late wife had started to experience headaches, night sweats, bruising and fatigue but her symptoms were dismissed as stress-related by her local surgery three times
Simon said people aren’t aware of the symptoms for blood cancer like they are breast cancer, despite it being the fifth most common cancer in the UK with more than 40,000 people being diagnosed with it each year.
Speaking about how he dealt with his wife’s death, Simon said he and his son Ethan, 12, both had counselling sessions for around two years.
He told The Sun: ‘We both benefited from having people to talk to and we both spent two years working with our individual counsellors.’