Mark Lawrenson has claimed that he was dropped from the BBC’s football coverage because “I’m 65 [years old] and a white male”.
Lawrenson retired at the end of last season after 30 years as a pundit and co-commentator with the corporation, most recently featuring on BBC One’s Football Focus. But he has now said it was not his decision to step down in an interview with the Sunday Times.
The former Liverpool defender also claimed that the BBC’s head of football told him the news in March of this year. “The Beeb are probably the worst at giving you bad news,” Lawrenson said. “It was just: ‘We’re going on the road next season with [Football] Focus. We don’t think it is really something for you.”
Lawrenson also praised the current Football Focus host Alex Scott, but added that the former England international was “thrown in” to replace Dan Walker. “She has done well in fairness to her, and is a lovely kid,” Lawrenson said. “Some people don’t want her to be any good, but she has got better and better.”
“From the outset, we were trying to make the programme as easy as possible for her,” he added. “It was a little bit frustrating because she would ask you a question and then move on … I would want to say something [else], but I just had to shut up because she was just learning.”
Lawrenson, who has covered six men’s World Cups for the BBC, added that the corporation was “frightened to death of upsetting anybody”.
“In all my time at the BBC, nobody ever said ‘you can’t say this or that’, but the ‘woke’ thing drives me bonkers,” he added. “I’ve been here for 20-odd years, I think I might know what to say and what not to say.”
He then gave an example of what he considered a “very early woke moment” from 25 years ago. Lawrenson claimed that when commentating on a Bradford City match in the days after the death of Princess Diana, he was advised by an editor to “not mention the wall” when describing free kicks.
The BBC has not responded to Lawrenson’s comments so far. The former Republic of Ireland international made his farewell appearance on Football Focus in May, before Liverpool’s FA Cup final win over Chelsea at Wembley.