Inside Lines: Sir Alex Ferguson tops BT’s list as new boys head into Europe


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The Independent Online

Television’s quest for talent is not confined to ITV on Saturday nights. BT, the new boys on the box, are searching for stars to beef up their sports coverage in advance of their three-year, £897 million Champions’ League and Europa League coup from the 2015-16 season. Top of their pundit wish-list is Sir Alex Ferguson, whom they have approached via his agent son, Jason. But even BT’s deep coffers seem unlikely to tempt him into an analyst’s role when he can pocket £100,000 a time on the lecture and after-dinner circuit – four times more than sport’s next highest earner in this field, Lord Coe.

With the gloves off again following BT’s recent uneasy truce with satellite rivals Sky, who last week poached rugby’s richest domestic competition, France’s Top 14, from them, we understand BT are also in the market to bolster their presentation team. With the admirable Clare Balding’s football knowledge scant, the BBC’s equally accomplished Gabby Logan is an obvious target as the feminine face of the game, while BT’s head of sport, Simon Green, also a director of BoxNation, has long been an admirer of one of television’s smoothest operators, veteran all-rounder Jim Rosenthal. Not least because BT are considering throwing their cheque book into the boxing ring. Broadcaster Ian Payne, who also impresses with his quickfire Jeff Stelling-styled LBC radio football-scores show on Saturdays, is another likely to be approached.

Eubanks are taking over

He may not have acquired a monocle, or a pair of jodhpurs, but Chris Eubank Jnr is certainly a chip off the old block. He pouts, he poses, has adopted the same signature tune and obviously considers that he, too, is Simply the Best. “He could be a good fighter once he stops trying to be his father,” observed one ringside sage cryptically after the unbeaten middleweight’s 14th successive victory, an impressive KO, at the Copperbox last weekend. Continuing boxing’s current round of ring-a-roses, Eubank Jnr (pictured) has switched promoters and is now with Frank Warren. There’s no doubt Chris snr is firmly controlling every aspect of his offspring’s burgeoning career. Whether this is wise or not remains to be seen. One former promoter says he found the ex-world champion “a nightmare, impossible to work with – always interfering.” Well the fight game had better get used to it because there’s another Eubank on the way. Second son Sebastian, 22, has reached the quarter-final stage of the ABA Championships, which are being held next weekend in Liverpool.A light-heavyweight who has won most of his amateur bouts, Sebastian wants to join his brother as a pro. This despite their father once saying of boxing: “It is not a reasonable business. You get damaged, you get disfigured, you get used. You’re partaking in a tragic form of entertainment.” Seems that’s one tune he’s changed.

We can bank on Javid

Sajid Javid is not a name which springs readily to the mind of Britain’s sporting cognoscenti. But is it one with which they must now familiarise themselves in the run-up to the next general election. We have yet to discover if the new supremo at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has any great sporting passions – apart from claiming to be a Manchester United fan. We do hear that the sports pages now merit more than a passing glance at his Whitehall desk once he has digested his usual Financial Times. It must be hoped than the self-made millionaire son of a Pakistan-born bus driver garners more interest in sport than his unlamented predecessor, Maria Miller, though she did manage the occasional spot of sailing between filling in her expenses claims. Javid has had a stellar career in banking, which at least should provide some comprehension of football’s illogical finances.