SPECIAL REPORT: Only TWO of the 37 used by Premier League rights holders are BAME … so, with broadcasters striving for advancement and more diversity, where are all the black TV commentators?
- Sportsmail has looked at commentators used by Premier League rights holders
- Two of the 37 used by Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime and the BBC are black
- Mark Scott and Seb Hutchinson are in high demand, but in a minority
Before all 290 Premier League games were televised live on television this season, and the even greater number of highlights packs shown on Match of the Day and elsewhere, every commenter has solemnly noted that players have the hang of it.
In almost all cases, the person who emphasized football’s fight against racism was white.
It’s a curious anomaly that the significant and visible progress all broadcasters have made in recent years in providing a more diverse range of experts has not been replicated in an area where the camera’s gaze rarely falls – the commentary box.
Seb Hutchinson (pictured) was the first black commentator to work for BT Sport and ITV
Mark Scott is only the second BAME commentator on TV for Premier League rights holders
Analysis by Sportsmail has found that of the 37 commentators used by the four Premier League rightholders this season – Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime and the BBC – only two have a BAME background: Mark Scott and Seb Hutchinson.
Both are in-demand freelancers working across multiple channels, with Scott being the more established, who estimates that he is called up by Match of the Day to provide commentary for three out of four weeks.
The written football media is also largely dominated by white men, despite many publications addressing this issue in recent years, but the lack of diversity in the commentary box is a somewhat hidden problem.
Almost 29 years after winning exclusive rights to broadcast the inaugural Premier League, it seems staggering to report that Sky Sports have never used a black commentator – a shocking paradox given the tremendous impact experts like Micah Richards and Alex Scott have made in recent years. Amazon has yet to use a black commentator, even though they’ve only aired 40 Premier League matches since buying rights two years ago.
Mark Scott made history as the first BAME commentator on Match of the Day when he covered a goalless draw between Bournemouth and Crystal Palace in 2015 and the first to make a new career as he commented on his first live match for the BBC this month.
The 39-year-old, who has a Trinidadian mother and English father, believes a lack of visibility is a major barrier.
He says it has prevented others from following in his footsteps in the way of female commentators like Vicki Sparks and Robyn Cowen since Jacqui Oatley made her Match of the Day debut in 2007.
Scott said: ‘I attended a workshop from the Black Collective of Media in Sport (BCOMS) last year and most of the young people there said they didn’t think commentary was a career path open to them.
“It’s become a cliché that” you can’t be what you can’t see “, but it applies in this case. Jacqui has really inspired girls and young women to comment, but we are rarely on screen and go unnoticed. When you see the names Mark Scott and Seb Hutchinson appearing on the TV, they are not screaming that we have an ethnic minority background. ‘
Hutchinson, who was the first black commentator to work for BT Sport and ITVis concerned that there are other structural problems in the industry, notably low entry-level wages that deter people from working-class backgrounds.
“There is an anomaly in football: a meritocracy on the field, but not off it,” he said. ‘Apart from ex-players, hardly any black people work on TV. I’ve been to remote broadcasts with hundreds of people as the only black face.
“On the downside, it’s not paid very well, so it’s harder for people with a working-class background to take the risk. And those who do often have industry contacts, increasing the likelihood of favoritism. ‘
Anti-racism group Kick It Out hosts sessions to help BAME talent see a path to broadcasting
Anti-racism group Kick It Out organizes sessions for aspiring broadcasters as part of their Raise Your Game program, an effort to broaden access to all areas of the football industry.
For Kick It Out CEO Tony Burnett, the lack of diversity does viewers a disservice.
He said: ‘In a multicultural society, having a range of talent working in the industry is critical, both to inspire the next generation and to provide a better understanding of the sport itself.
Take the England-India test series. The Indian commentators provide a level of insight into the players’ personalities, techniques and culture that would otherwise be lacking. ‘
Paul Elliott, who launched the Football Leadership Diversity Code that gave football clubs diversity goals for recruiting, said, “Broadcasters should work harder to create apprenticeships, career paths and programs to open up the industry.”