Football Focus pulled from schedule Final Score is set for same fate, as pudits and presenters pull out



11 March

  • Alex Scott pulls out of presenting Football Focus - and show doesn’t air
  • Jason Mohammad pulls out of presenting Final Score - and show not scheduled to air later this afternoon
  • Former director general Greg Dyke, NUJ and Bectu add opposition

10 March

The BBC’s weekend football output is in disarray, with Football Focus dropped and Final Score no longer in the schedule, following the decision of commentators, presenters and pundits to refuse to appear after the corporation stood down host Match of the Day host Gary Lineker.

Ex-England star Alex Scott, who had already issued her support for Lineker last night, made a statement on Twitter this morning (11 March).

Alex Scott womens world cup

Football Focus host Alex Scott

“I made a decision last night that even though I love my show…it doesn’t feel right for me to go ahead with the show today.

”Hopefully I will be back in the chair next week,” she wrote.

Later this morning Mohammad wrote on the social media platform:

”As you know, Final Score is a TV show very close to my heart.

“However - I have this morning informed the BBC that I will not be presenting the show this afternoon on BBC One.”

Those decisions, and potentially others, Football Focus did nor run this morning and the BBC’s iPlayer schedule page for BBC1 is not listing Final Score. 

Following the BBC’s decision on Friday afternoon to stand Lineker down for “breaching its guidelines” with his tweets about the government’s immigration policies, fellow MOTD presenters Ian Wright and Alan Shearer said they would boycott the show, while several other programme regulars – including Scott, Jermaine Jenas and Micah Richards – also said they would not fill in.

They were then joined by the MOTD commentators, who include Steve Wilson and Conor McNamara, pulling out from the coverage.

Wilson and McNamara tweeted similar statements, with the latter saying:

“As commentators on MOTD, we have decided to step down from tomorrow night’s broadcast. We know that football fans want to watch their teams should still be able to do so, as management can use World Feed commentary if they wish. However, in the circumstances, we do not feel it would be appropriate to take part in the action.”

The walkout forced the BBC to say MOTD will “focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “Some of our pundits have said that they don’t wish to appear on the programme while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary.

“We understand their position and we have decided that the programme will focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry.”

Industry backlash

The moves come as unions and industry grandees condemned the “massive own goal” from the BBC to stand down Lineker on impartiality grounds, given the recent issues surrounding the appointment of chair Richard Sharp.

Former director general Greg Dyke told the BBC that it had “undermined its own credibility” with its Lineker decision, and the Sharp incident is fuelling perceptions that it is cowardly in the face of government.

“There is a long-established precedent in the BBC that if you are an entertainment presenter or a sports presenter then you are not bound by those same rules [of impartiality],” he told the Today programme on Radio 4, adding that he suspected “this is the end of Gary Lineker as a BBC presenter as we’ve known him, and I suspect it will have a long-term effect on Match of the Day.”

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary for the National Union of Journalists, said: “Yielding to sustained political pressure in this way is as foolish as it is dangerous.

“As the BBC is plunged tonight into yet another crisis of its own making, it’s heartening to see solidarity in action on the part of fellow presenters – a timely warm-up of why collective action matters, ahead of the strike by NUJ members across England on Wednesday and Thursday who are fighting to preserve quality local news at our public service broadcaster.

“Who is convinced that genuine concern for impartiality is the driving force here? It doesn’t wash – not least when the BBC’s chairman failed to declare his critical role in a £800million loan facility to the former Prime Minister, is backed to the hilt by this government, and is still resisting calls for his resignation weeks after an excoriating government select committee report called on him to consider his position and journalists across the BBC voted overwhelmingly to demand his immediate resignation.”

Bectu chief Philippa Childs, whose union represents thousands of BBC employees, said: “This is a deeply concerning decision from the BBC. It will give the appearance that they have bowed to political pressure from ministers to take someone off air for disagreeing with the policies of the current government.

“Taken with the ongoing controversy over the appointment of the BBC Chairman, who has a much more important role in upholding the reputation of the BBC, and who has not stepped back while under investigation, it also risks given the impression of double standards on these issues.”