Sport on TV: Alan Hansen says no to extra time as he joins BBC exodus


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The Independent Online

Suggestions that BBC TV have ordered new signs for their sports studio(s) – whether they have more than one these days is unclear – which read: "Will the last presenter to leave the premises please turn out the lights" are, of course, mere malicious gossip, but it's undeniable that a growing number of presenters and pundits have headed for the exit door in recent times as the BBC's portfolio of sporting events continues to shrink.

They have given up on horseracing, although how much you will miss the charmless cackling of Willie Carson or the graceless gurning of John McCririck is a matter entirely for you. While the sainted Clare Balding still fronts racing coverage on our screens she now does so over on Channel 4, having already given up her on-screen anchor role for the BBC's rugby league Challenge Cup programming.

Auntie still has a presence in Formula One, albeit a somewhat reduced one; this season they are covering only nine races live after financial constraints forced them into an uneasy partnership with Sky. And Jake Humphrey, their erstwhile F1 presenter, is another high-profile defector, having jumped ship for the whizz-bang delights of BT Sport. No more will we see him towering over David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan, graciously sharing with them his in-depth knowledge of motor racing's intricacies.

Never mind; there's still football. Not too much of the live stuff, granted, though no true fan will want to miss the qualifiers for the 2015 Women's World Cup on BBC2. Yet when it comes to highlights, Match of the Day on Saturday nights and its Sunday sister MotD2 remain jewels in the BBC's increasingly precarious crown.

But hold on, what's this? Another departure from the pundit ranks, and a noteworthy one; last week the housewives' favourite Alan Hansen announced he will be stepping ashore from the Saturday flagship after 22 years. Never mind his dictum back in 1995 after Manchester United lost 3-1 to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season: "You can't win anything with kids" (only the Double, it transpired), at 58 he has decided to let younger folk have their fling.

The Match of the Day producers agree with him, it seems; his fellow analyst Mark Lawrenson, he of the big collars and small thoughts, has "a reduced role" this season as the programme opts for squad rotation. Gary Lineker is still the front man, as befits a former England striker, but last Sunday there was no Lawro or Hansen; the swivel seats alongside him were occupied by Robbie Savage and Michael Owen. The blond and the bland; keep rotating, chaps.

There has been a change at the helm this season on MotD2, as the excitable Northern Irishman Colin Murray was given the heave-ho in favour of the lower-key Mark Chapman. Murray has also left his Radio 5 Live Fighting Talk show after making a jolly hurtful joke about Clare Balding. His excuse? He claimed he hadn't had time to read his script before the red light went on. At least his audience's displeasure was spontaneous.

Two presenters who should have noticed the red light hadn't gone off before making equally crass remarks about a female match official are now back on view, though. Having been summarily dismissed by Sky in 2011, the non-PC pair have popped up again in Qatar, introducing live coverage of Premier League matches on the Arab channel Al Jazeera, and pubs and clubs in the UK have cottoned on to the fact that they can patch into those broadcasts for free.

Sounds perfect fare for the boozer of another Al, The Pub Landlord Al Murray: "My gaff, my rules – switch on and get a white wine or fruit-based drink for the lady."