Football Focus presenter Alex Scott has hit back at her predecessor Dan Walker, who said it is ‘difficult’ to see the iconic BBC show struggling amid a dramatic decline in viewership that could see it disappear.
Walker presented the BBC One show for 11 years between 2009 and 2021, before Alex Scott took over from him.
As revealed by Mail Sport this week, the 49-year-old program has lost more than a third of its early-season viewers in four years.
Walker wrote of X: ‘It’s hard to see Football Focus struggling. I loved it growing up and it was an honor to present it and I still miss it. We put everything into that show every week and worked hard to keep it relevant. I hope it remains part of the TV landscape.’
And this led to Scott responding in GIF format, simply saying, “Interesting.”
Former Football Focus presenter Dan Walker has expressed his sadness at the iconic BBC show’s viewing figures decline in recent years
The show has continued to decline since Alex Scott took over from Walker in 2021
Walker said on X that he feels “sad” about the show’s decline and hopes it stays on the air
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Walker was classy in his response to Scott as he wished her well for Saturday’s show.
“I’m not saying you don’t have Alex,” he wrote. ‘It is a saturated market and it is hard work every week. I hope you have a good show today.”
However, Scott didn’t stop there as she sent another message to the show’s critics, posting the 2022 Sports Journalist Association award.
She wrote: ‘We have big interviews tomorrow with Ange Postecoglou and Arsenal captain Martin Odegarard on ‘Award-winning’ Football Focus.
‘Make that a headline.’
While Football Focus is not thought to be in immediate danger of disappearing from Saturday programmes, reversing that decline will be a priority for the company’s new sporting director once Barbara Slater retires next spring.
Scott responded to Walker’s first tweet and replied with a GIF
The former Gunner then continued to issue her own tweet about the criticism
Walker, who followed in the footsteps of presenters Sam Leitch, Bob Wilson, Steve Rider, Gary Lineker, Ray Stubbs and Manish Bhasin in 2009, expressed his regret at the sad situation.
The weekly average viewing figures for August fell from 849,000 in 2019 to just 564,000 last month.
The most dramatic fall coincides with Scott replacing Walker as lead host in 2021.
In Walker’s final season before being moved, the average weekly audience was 827,000 in August, before dropping to 809,000 in 2021, 599,000 twelve months later and 564,000 this year.
However, Scott is not blamed by her bosses and remains highly regarded by the BBC, which plans to give the former England defender a prominent presenting role at next summer’s Olympics.
Des Lynam (left) listens in as Bob Wilson and Jimmy Hill run Football Focus in 1979
Mark Lawrenson, who appeared on the program for 25 years before being let go last year, told Mail Sport he believes the show has ‘served its time’.
He said: ‘It has served its time. It’s a football magazine show, but there are so many other options for viewers these days and there’s so much competition.
‘It doesn’t surprise me. Football Focus is going to be around for 50 years, which is incredible, even though there was no competition 50 years ago.”
BBC sources stressed that the fall in ratings mirrored the decline experienced by all linear channels in recent years.
A spokesperson told Mail Sport: ‘Football Focus continues to announce the start of a whole weekend of sports coverage on BBC Sport. Week on week it is the most watched program in that time frame and iPlayer viewing figures are also high, so we know its popularity among fans is here to stay.”