David Gower admits he felt sympathy for axed Soccer Saturday pundits

David Gower admits he felt sympathy for axed Soccer Saturday pundits nearly a year after his own dismissal from Sky… as former England captain states he does NOT regret his ageism jibe at the broadcaster which brought about some ‘appalling’ reactions

  • Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas were axed last month 
  • The Soccer Saturday shake-up comes nearly a year after David Gower was axed 
  • Gower, 63, and Sir Ian Botham, 64, gave 20 years of service to Sky Sports
  • But they were let go and Gower claims it showed an ‘element of implied ageism’  

David Gower has admitted he feels sympathy for Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas after the trio were axed from Sky Sports’ flagship Soccer Saturday programme last month.

The trio’s sudden dismissal last month in Sky’s search for greater diversity came almost 12 months after former England captain Gower, 63, and iconic all-rounder Sir Ian Botham, 64, waved goodbye to the broadcaster following two decades of service.

But while refusing to comment on whether Le Tissier, Thompson and Nicholas’ axing was further confirmation of the ‘element of implied ageism’ he had suggested was involved in his own dismissal, the former England batsman did pay tribute to his ‘excellent’ fellow former pundits and was eager to highlight the inevitability of punditry teams being freshened up.  

David Gower has admitted he feels sympathy for the Soccer Saturday pundits who were axed

Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas were dismissed from the programme

Gower and Sir Ian Botham ‘were retired’ last September following 20 years of service to Sky

‘I feel for those guys on Soccer Saturday who had done a brilliant job, but there are trends around the world in the industry as a whole, which mean these things will happen,’ Gower – who is president of the Lord’s Taverners – told Sportsmail.

‘I know Matt Le Tissier from various contacts over the years and being vaguely associated with Southampton and Hampshire, and he was good, he was excellent at what he did, as were the others. 

‘So I feel for them, because it seemed to come a little bit out of the blue I thought. I am not sure how much forewarning there was for them, and as Jeff Stelling has said they are mates of his and he was sad to see them go.

‘But they will now build a new team. Inevitably when you are building a team, a broadcast studio or a cricket or football team, there is a period where things don’t work as well as they might, where people are learning what their role is and bedding in, but once they are comfortable, things will go again.’

Gower at launch event of Lloyd Scott’s Three Peaks Challenge at Captain Tom Moore’s home

Gower caused a storm at the end of last summer when he hinted to The Telegraph that an element of ageism was behind Sky’s decision to remove himself and Botham from the commentary team, before stating in a separate interview with The Times that he pleaded with the broadcaster to change their minds.

But England’s fourth-highest Test run scorer of all time admitted he did not regret the comment he made last September but rather the ‘appalling’ reactions from some people to it as well as the overstated manner in which his words were taken. 

‘Yes I did say that. I used the expression that there was a hint and merest whiff of [ageism]. But we are all aware that things move on,’ he added.

‘It was true [what I said]. I don’t regret it. I regret some other people’s reactions to it, largely there was sympathy but it didn’t go down well in all quarters, and I think that was wrong. I think that was appalling actually.

‘I wasn’t trying to make a big point, I wasn’t trying to whinge, one point I always tried to say to people is I am very grateful for the 20 years, that was the most important thing, rather than worrying about the next 20 years. 

Gower admitted he did not regret his comment on ageism but regretted how overstated it was

‘Much as I would love to still be doing what I used to do, much as I still feel very capable of doing it well and successfully, I know full well that is not happening at the moment. They know that, what has happened has happened. It is not a positive thing to be complaining about.’

Gower revealed last year he is keen to remain in the industry and touted the idea of moving to India.

And he remains adamant that there is still a spot for experience in a diverse broadcasting environment, warning that the quality of broadcasting could otherwise diminish if the ‘pendulum swung too far’ in the opposite direction. 

‘To be fair that [diversity] has always happened. But I do still think there is room in the industry for experience. 

‘The obvious thing for people in my position is that none of us feel old. As long as we can still speak and put words in the right order and observe and react and as long as we still have enthusiasm for what we do, then I think there is a perfectly valid position to hold there.

The former batsman remains adamant that there is still a spot for experience in broadcasting

‘But we are all in the hands of outside forces on this one. Management and the broadcasters make their decisions, you look at it at Sky, at the BBC, you look at it around the world, this is a very strong trend.

‘I am so grateful that I got to spend so long in that business, six years at the BBC and 20 years at Sky, which is a large chunk of one’s life. The only thing I would say is that I was always keen in my role to understand what the job required in terms of promoting the game, of promoting people’s interests, using language well.

‘I think the one thing everyone needs to be mindful of is just maintaining the quality of the broadcast and the words that are broadcast. There is something very special about those who have the ability to use words well.

‘We should encourage diversity, absolutely we should, but just beware of the pendulum swinging too far.’

Gower also paid tribute to former Australia batsman Dean Jones, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 59 in Mumbai, where he was working as a commentator on television coverage of the Indian Premier League.

Gower also paid tribute to former Australian batsman Dean Jones, who passed away

Jones and Gower were opponents in three separate Ashes series between 1986 and 1991, with the former one of the stars of Australia’s successful tour in 1989.

And the former England skipper honoured the two-time Ashes and 1987 World Cup winner following his passing.

‘I was very fond of Deano. I played against him every time we went to Australia covering Ashes series, we always got together. 

‘He was very very fine player, very brave and skilful, and a great thinker about the game. I am very sorry to hear it.’

Lord’s Taverners President David Gower is supporting the fundraising challenge of Lloyd Scott to complete the famous 3 Peaks Challenge dressed in a 130lb deep sea diving suit starting on October 4. Visit www.lordstaverners.org to make a donation

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