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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Jeremy Wil­son

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.

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