In Depth

Why everyone’s talking about Sky Sports Soccer Saturday

After Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas get the boot racist trolls target Alex Scott and Micah Richards

Black football pundits Alex Scott and Micah Richards have been targeted online by racist trolls following Sky Sports’s sacking of Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas from Soccer Saturday

The Daily Mirror reports that the long-serving trio, who have clocked up more than 50 years of service, were given the boot as part of changes to the broadcaster’s football programming.

In a statement Sky confirmed: “We are changing some parts of our football coverage. Matt, Charlie and Phil have done a great job for us over the years, and they will leave us with our sincere thanks and very best wishes.”

Host Jeff Stelling and former Arsenal star Paul Merson will remain part of the Soccer Saturday team. Stelling tweeted: “One of my saddest days ever at Sky Sports with the departure of three of my best mates. They have been part of a team that for me was the best.”

What happened?

The firing of Le Tissier (51), Thompson (66) and Nicholas (58) from the popular Saturday afternoon show quickly became a top trend on social media yesterday. 

Despite no replacements having yet being appointed, anti-PC trolls were quick to accuse Sky of sacking the trio in favour of a more diverse panel of pundits.

Black ex-footballers Scott, Richards, Clinton Morrison and Sol Campbell have been touted as possible candidates to take a seat at the Soccer Saturday table, but some Twitter users reacted negatively, the Daily Mail reports.

Scott and Richards were also trending on Twitter in the aftermath of Sky’s announcement. Former Arsenal and England women’s star Scott was praised by many for her punditry skills, the Mail adds, but was also the target of many sexist tweets. Ex-Manchester City defender Richards also faced abuse online. 

Both pundits reacted with tweets of their own. “Here we go,” said Scott while Richards wrote: “I saw I was trending today in relation to a brilliant & institutional Sky Sports TV show that I’ve never even been on. The underlying insinuation of tweets immediately linking mine & Alex Scott’s names makes for some uncomfortable truths. Peace and love.”

Wrighty defends duo 

Ian Wright, one of football’s most prominent black pundits, was so shocked by the abuse of Scott and Richards that he told racists to “keep their names out of your stinking unbrushed mouths”. 

In a heartfelt video watched more than three million times, Arsenal legend Wright said: “The racism is going through the roof today. Can somebody just answer me this: what does Micah Richards, Alex Scott, Sol Campbell, Clinton Morrison, or any other black pundit have to do with Sky’s decision to get rid of these guys? 

“All because three middle-aged white guys have got the sack. I kiss my teeth, say raasclaat and all that sort of stuff. What have they done, what have these guys done? 

“Because a black person or a woman might get the opportunity to do this job. They might get a chance to do this show. Why are people upset?”

Goodbye to the ‘Proper Football Men’

Le Tissier, Thompson and Nicholas are not the only pundits who have been shown the door. The Sun reports that Scott Minto has also been axed by the TV company, which has been “aggressively cutting staff numbers”. 

Writing in The Telegraph, Jim White says that while losing “Tiss, Tommo and Charlie” signals the end for “Proper Football Men”, the punditry future is bright in the era of Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville.

White wrote: “When the decision was announced that the Soccer Saturday team was to be refreshed, the response from viewers on social media was pretty clear. The threesome were being removed because they no longer fitted the image broadcasters wish to convey. In this new world order, there is no place for the pale, male and stale.

“What we want is something that informs as well as entertains. If the new bunch of talkers - whoever they may be - can deliver half as much as Neville and Carragher the fact is the trio of Proper Football Men will soon be forgotten, recalled only as a long-lost byway of broadcasting history. RIP PFM.”

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