Head of BBC Sport Barbara Slater announces her retirement six months after Gary Lineker debacle

6 September 2023, 15:45

Barbara Slater announced the plans on Wednesday.
Barbara Slater announced the plans on Wednesday. Picture: Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

Barbara Slater has announced her plans to quit as the broadcaster’s head of sport just six months after the Gary Lineker row.

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Ms Slater, a former Olympic gymnast, has said she will retire next spring after 14 years as head of sport.

She made history as the first female to be appointed to a top sports executive position at the corporation after landing the role in 2009.

It comes less than six months after the broadcaster’s impartiality row over Gary Lineker, as the Match of the Day presenter was pulled off the air for comparing the language of the government’s Illegal Immigration Bill to that of 1930s Germany.

Ms Slater, who oversaw the response to the debacle, issued an apology to staff in March amid the fallout as multiple presenters and pundits boycotted the show following Lineker’s suspension.

Announcing her retirement plans, Ms Slater said on Wednesday: "It was this week 40 years ago that I first walked through the doors at Broadcasting House.

"A career in BBC Sport has been an absolute passion, never just a job.

"Since joining in 1983 I've been privileged to have had such amazing opportunities and the delight of working with such talented colleagues and partners.

"There are a huge number of people to thank, and so many magical memories to reflect upon."

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Barbara Slater announced her retirement plans today.
Barbara Slater announced her retirement plans today. Picture: Getty

She continued: "I also hope that in showcasing the brilliance of women's sport the BBC has played its part in changing attitudes, increasing its profile and inspiring the next generation.

"I must also make special mention of the Olympic Games having been a competitor in 1976 and then leading the sport teams covering a home Games in 2012.

"It was a monumental achievement for the BBC and everyone involved, as the UK hosted a sensational Olympics in London.

"I will be following the BBC's coverage of Paris next summer, this time as a proud sports fan."

Throughout the role, Ms Slater oversaw 14 different football World Cups and European Championships and seven Olympic Games.

BBC director-general Tim Davie paid tribute to her career following the announcement, he said: “Barbara has had an extraordinary career at the BBC, a pioneer, innovator and outstanding leader, she has kept the BBC at the forefront of sport for a generation.

He described her as a “pioneer, innovator and outstanding leader”.

"She will leave the BBC with a tremendous legacy,” he added.

Charlotte Moore, chief content officer, said: “Barbara has had an extraordinary career at the BBC and leaves a legacy few will ever be able to replicate. She is a much-respected leader, a real trailblazer for women in the industry who can proudly say she has inspired the next generation.”

Ms Slater, who will step down in the spring of 2024, has reportedly left the broadcaster in “fantastic health” with several rights deals in place up until 2032.

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