The BBC has refused to back down over its decision to scrap the classified football results on Radio 5 Live and said that continuing to broadcast the full service would “constrain the number of sports we could cover”.
A British radio institution that has been broadcast since the 1950s, the full classified service was quietly dropped on Saturday’s edition of Sports Report to make way for extra live coverage of Premier League matches kicking off at 5.30pm – a change from last season’s schedule. That decision was widely criticised amid suggestions that the BBC is prioritising Premier League football over the lower leagues, although BBC sources have told the Guardian that it had received only a “handful of complaints” before mainstream media picked up on it.
It has now been confirmed that the full results service will be available only on the BBC Sport website and during Final Score on BBC One and that there were “good reasons for the change”.
In a statement on Wednesday the BBC said: “We’ve received some complaints from those unhappy that the classified football results will no longer be read out on Saturdays within the Sports Report programme on Radio 5 Live.
“We appreciate the strength of feeling towards the classified football results within Sports Report. It’s always difficult when a programme with a special history changes, but there are good reasons for the change.
“With the addition of the 5.30pm live Premier League match to our coverage, Sports Report has been condensed into a shorter programme – cut from one hour to 25 minutes. The classifieds were taking around five to seven minutes to read, which would have taken up around a third of the programme – constraining the range of sports we could cover.”
The statement added: “We’d like to assure our listeners that results from across the football leagues will still be shared during the programme and through the afternoon. Results are also available in full on the BBC Sport website and during Final Score on BBC One. Having a live match at 5.30 is a great addition to the schedule.”
Full results have been read out on Saturday afternoons since the early 1950s. After first being presented by John Webster, James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 and went on to become one of the most recognisable voices in British broadcasting – altering his tone of voice to indicate a home win, an away win or a draw – before passing the torch to Charlotte Green in 2013.