Commentators were hit with widespread abuse
summoned to a meeting with management via Zoom today at which they will be asked for their views. Should a resolution be reached it would avert a tricky situation ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup action with the threat of legal action if full commentary and analysis is not available. The BBC are due to televise Manchester City v Burnley on Saturday and Brighton v Grimsby on Sunday, and failure to deliver the full service would see the corporation in breach of contract.
Following Saturday’s shortened, commentary-less Match of the Day, last night’s Match of the Day 2 followed a similar format. Elsewhere, no presenters or commentators from the BBC were at the televised 12.30pm Women’s Super League clash between Chelsea and Manchester United, with BBC 2 instead taking a world feed commentary. The FA are not expected to seek compensation due to the exceptional circumstances involved but would take a different view if the FA Cup quarter-finals were compromised. BBC staffer Steve Crossman failed to present Radio 5 Live’s afternoon sports show with podcasts aired instead. Like Saturday, there were radio commentaries of yesterday’s matches, but, again there was no fans’ 606 phone-in after the matches.
Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton, who features on the 606 show, was prepared to take part but others were not. Davie was on business in Washington DC but faced mounting pressure to resolve a conflict that has brought the broadcaster’s sports department to its knees and caused severe internal unrest.
Commentator Ian Dennis covered Saturday’s Leeds v Brighton clash and suffered widespread abuse on social media for doing so. John Murray, who commentated on yesterday’s Newcastle v Wolves match, referred to ‘a difficult and challenging time for colleagues and friends’ at the BBC. Many were appalled by the criticism Dennis received on social media, pointing out that he was simply doing his job.
Lineker was taken off air after a tweet which criticised the Government’s asylum policy in which he likened the language used to ‘that used by Germany in the 30s’. He has received widespread support, with Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and Alex Scott among those to boycott. Sutton, writing in today’s Sportsmail, says he has sympathy with all of those involved. ‘I sincerely hope this messy situation between Gary and the BBC gets resolved so we can see him back on Match on the Day as soon as possible,’ he said. ‘I support free speech but the situation is complicated and I feel greatly for BBC staffers who aren’t sure what to do and freelancers who are losing work because of this situation. People shouldn’t be put into a position where they have to choose between work or supporting Gary. You can do both.’
The Premier League will not seek compensation following the interrupted coverage as both parties are understood to have breached the terms of their contract. Match of the Day failed to meet the production standards expected by the Premier League, but top-flight clubs also failed to meet their contractual commitments by withdrawing players and managers from interviews.