Minto joins exodus as wind of change blows through Sky
Veteran presenter on way out with heavyweight pundits Programmes also axed as broadcaster overhauls coverage
Three football shows axed, a trio of high-profile pundits gone and now an experienced presenter announcing “with a heavy heart” that his long association with Sky Sports is over.
Scott Minto yesterday followed Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas in confirming that he would be leaving the broadMarcus
caster ahead of the 2020-21 football season.
The Daily Telegraph can also confirm that Goals on Sunday, The Debate and The Sunday Supplement are all coming off the schedules, adding up to the most dramatic overhaul of Sky’s football coverage since Richard Keys and Andy Gray left almost a decade ago.
The ugly prelude to the departures of Keys and Gray was of course whether sexist “banter” could have any place in the workplace. The fates of Le Tissier, Thompson and Nicholas seemed to rest more on whether a certain blend of inoffensive middle-aged football banter and past playing experience still has sufficient appeal across six hours of a Saturday afternoon.
Whatever your view on that particular question, the impact this week at Sky is clear. “People are wondering who or what will change next,” said one insider, who described shock, sadness and yet somehow not surprise at the loss of three pundits with a combined 60 years in the studio.
“There had been rumours of change last summer and I think it had become pretty obvious how people felt. You could feel the winds of change,” said the source. Jeff Stelling, who has anchored
Soccer Saturday since 1994, said that “the best” team had been disbanded. One source questioned whether the show would survive a new generation of producers in its current guise, but another stressed that Stelling, with his encyclopedic knowledge and charisma, was well equipped to adapt.
While social media and even betting companies have been awash with predictions that Alex Scott and Micah Richards will move into the now vacant Soccer Saturday chairs, Sky’s plan is understood to be rather different. Although Scott and Richards have both impressed, they are seen much more as part of the on-site punditry teams at big live games.
Soccer Saturday is instead likely to use a pool of pundits in rotation rather than return to a settled lineup. Paul Merson and Clinton Morrison will stay on the team, but Sky will also use other guests who have appeared, alongside new faces.
Le Tissier revealed earlier this month that some people had called for him to be sacked over his views on the Covid-19 crisis.
There have also been suggestions that they have made changes to reduce the age and increase the diversity of their pundits. The internal word is that there is simply an evolution of programming and personnel as Sky seek to optimise their relevance to a changing audience.
It follows the departures last summer of David Gower and Sir Ian Botham from the cricket team, as well as senior presenters over recent years such as Nick Collins and Tim Abrahams.
Executive editor Andy Cairns left last summer after 30 years at Sky and Barney Francis, the former managing director, departed in January after almost 25 years. Rob Webster became managing director last year and innovations have centred around technology that directly connects fans during matches, longer-form documentaries and programmes which look back over memorable moments.
Sky said in statements that Minto, Le Tissier, Thompson and Nicholas had left as part of changes to their football coverage and stressed they departed with their best wishes and “sincere” gratitude and appreciation.