Sue Barker: TV star’s heartbreaking take on Question of Sport amid BBC show takeover

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TV presenters Sue Barker, Phil Tufnell and Matt Dawson have all been axed by the BBC in a move to “diversify” the quiz show ‘A Question of Sport’ and appeal to a younger demographic. Former England defender Alex Scott, 35, will take over from the ex-tennis star Barker, 64, who fronted the programme for 24 years. The news was met with backlash from some members of the public, including former ITV News host Alastair Stewart who branded it “ridiculous”. While they are yet to announce Barker’s final episode, unearthed accounts reveal her fears about being fired and a crushing take about the show. 

Barker, who took over the popular TV sports quiz in 1997, admitted she had fond memories of ‘A Question of Sport’, which she was an “avid fan” of and would watch it with her family during her childhood. 

Even when the tennis star lived in the US and was only able to see “bits and pieces” of it upon her return to the UK, she claimed it was always something she knew about. 

She said: “Of course once I returned to the UK I was an avid fan. There are very few shows that even get to 25 years, let alone get to 50. It’s remarkable.”

Barker also recalled being “really scared” when she made her debut appearance as a guest on the show in 1984, alongside team captain Emlyn Hughes and teammate Gareth Edwards.

While they didn’t win, she was impressed by the knowledge collectively held by rival Bill Beaumont’s team, which had as members Sam Torrance and Willie Carson.

She told What’s On TV magazine in December: “They knew a heck of a lot – I was absolutely terrified.”

Barker believed the show’s key to success was that it “stayed very true to its roots” and kept some of the rounds that first aired in the Seventies. 

She added: “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.”

Prior to the recent announcement, Barker admitted that she had no intention of retiring, in a 2017 Telegraph article.

When asked if she had plans to leave of her own accord, Barker said: “I hope not, no. I’m enjoying it even more so. I love it. “

During that time, it was believed that Barker’s job was under threat after the BBC announced plans to attract a younger audience who were said to “love the banter”.

In the same article, former employee Miriam O’Reilly, who won a payout from the corporation over age discrimination.

She said: “I would be astounded if they took such a talented broadcaster as Sue Barker off our screens. 

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“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.”

After Alex Scott was announced as the replacement for Sue Barker, an insider told The Sun that she was lined-up because of her sports knowledge and experience. 

They said: “Like Sue, she’s a former sportswoman and she also has five years of broadcasting under her belt. 

“This has nothing to do with gender, nor is it a case of the BBC trying to be woke.”

Barker, who will continue to present Wimbledon coverage for the corporation, expressed her sadness to leave the show after 24 years. 

She told Sportsmail on Sunday: “I love the show so much they would have to remove me, it would have been tough for me to walk away.

“I’ve absolutely loved my 24 years fronting ‘A Question Of Sport’, it’s been my dream job.

“But I understand the BBC wants to take the show in a new direction and I’m sad to say goodbye.”

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