Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas leave Soccer Saturday in shake-up

BBC football pundit Ian Wright felt compelled to defend Black pundits in the wake of the decisions.

Soccer Saturday

Football pundits Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas have left Soccer Saturday after a shake-up of the show, a decision that sparked some racist responses from the public, igniting the anger of BBC football pundit Ian Wright.

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The three football experts have been working for Sky Sports for a combined total of almost 50 years, according to SunSport.

Southampton FC legend Le Tissier appeared to take the decision gracefully. He tweeted: “Enjoyed my time at Sky Sports, time to look forward to life’s next challenge, thank you for the support down the years and special thanks to the backroom team which include @CazzaEccles @CarlyBassett @tvtrevstats amongst many others, good luck all have a lovely day.”

There were some suggestions that the trio were making way for a more diverse line-up of pundits, rumours which have not been confirmed by Sky Sports but which provoked some racist responses.

Wright filmed a video passionately defending Black pundits such as Alex Scott, Micah Richards and Sol Campbell, after “the racism [had] gone through the roof today”.

Wright said: “Can someone just answer me this? What does Micah Richards, Alex Scott, Sol Campbell or Clinton Morrison or any other Black pundit have to do with Sky’s decision to get rid of these guys? … Because a Black person might get the opportunity to do this job? They might get the chance to do this show? Why are people upset?”

Le Tissier retweeted Wright’s video and said he “totally agreed” with Wright’s “excellent point well made… racism should be left out of this completely”.

He joked that from one middle-aged bloke to another “I thought I did a decent job”.

Wright added: “These guys Matt Le Tissier, Charlie Nicholas and Phil Thompson, have had an unbelievable run it’s been a great show, this happens to everybody in the industry. This is Sky’s decision to evolve the show – I wish them all the best. Yes, you can be disappointed that it’s come to an end for those guys. But why does it have to be racially-driven? What’s it got to do with Black Lives Matter? Or the fact that Black people may get an opportunity to get those jobs?”

Sky told SunSport: “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.”

Thompson said: “I’ve had a great 22 years on Sky Sports. Enjoyed every minute with some amazing people on the show and behind the scenes which made it the iconic show it is today. Good luck to Sky, Jeff, Merse and the new gang on Soccer Saturday.”

Presenter Jeff Stelling will remain on Soccer Saturday, as will Arsenal icon Paul Merson.

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