Sue Barker, Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell have been dropped in an attempt to “diversify” the line-up and bring in new talent to attract younger audiences. Former tennis star Barker, 64, revealed she would never have quit ‘A Question of Sport’ and that it was her “dream job”, during an interview with Sportsmail. However, this is far from the first time it was feared that the star would be axed from the BBC show.
Barker was believed to have been under threat around the 50th Anniversary of ‘A Question of Sport’ when the BBC wanted “a fresh and new perspective” for viewers.
A document that detailed new plans for the show mentioned the plan to “refresh” the historic quiz to feature more ethnic minority, disabled and LGBT performers as part of the line-up.
It stated: “Quiz shows such as these provide an opportunity to bring on newer faces as part of a wider talent strategy.”
The report obtained by the Telegraph in 2017, led many to speculate that Barker and other hosts would be in the firing line.
One source told the site: “We have been told that no one is safe.”
In the past, Barker made her intentions to stay with the programme clear and added that she would not retire because she felt age was “just a number”.
The document also claimed that the show needed to bring on board a “broader audience” and that those aged 16 to 34 “love the banter”.
Miriam O’Reilly, who won an age discrimination case against the BBC after she was dropped from the ‘Countryfile’ line-up, felt to lose Barker would be a “disgrace”.
She said: “I would be astounded if they took such a talented broadcaster as Sue Barker off our screens.
“The BBC is not listening to its audiences, who want to see older women on screen. What is it going to take to get them to change? This kind of thing has got them into trouble before.”
At the time, the corporation described Barker as a “brilliant and much loved presenter” who they valued “incredibly highly for her work”.
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They also stated that there was no intention to get rid of the star at that moment.
Fans of the show vented online that the BBC were “breaking something that works brilliantly” and branded any potential decision to sack Barker as a “crazy thought”.
In an interview with What On TV last December, Barker claimed the secret behind the show’s success was staying “very true to its roots”.
She continued: “The show still has some of the rounds that were on in the Seventies.
“Although the production team has moved it on and made it more current it still has the bones of why it was on the air in the first place – just a good honest sports quiz.
“Of course we have a lot of fun with it and Phil and Matt aren’t afraid of making fools of themselves, so it’s got entertainment but a quiz element to it as well.”