Fears it's full-time for Football Focus as BBC face urgent talks

Fears it’s full-time for Football Focus: Iconic BBC show facing urgent talks to reverse decline in viewing figures with over a third lost in the last four years

  • Football Focus’ future is hanging in the balance amid poor viewership figures 
  • The programme has lost more than one third of it’s audience in the last four years
  • Click here to watch the IAKO Battle of Old Trafford YouTube Special from the Mail Sport Studios 

The future of Football Focus is the subject of urgent talks at the BBC due to a dramatic drop in viewing figures.

Mail Sport can reveal the 49-year-old programme has lost more than one third of its early-season audience in the space of four years, with the average weekly viewing figures for August falling from 849,000 in 2019 to just 564,000 last month.

Football Focus is not thought to be under immediate threat but reversing the decline will be a priority for the corporation’s new director of sport, with Barbara Slater retiring next spring. The programme will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year and serious thought will be given as to whether a major rebrand is required.

The most dramatic fall in viewing figures coincides with Alex Scott replacing Dan Walker as Focus’ main presenter in 2021. In Walker’s last season before he was moved on the average weekly August audience was 827,000, before dropping to 809,000 in 2021, 599,000 12 months later and 564,000 this year.

Scott is not being blamed by her bosses, though, and remains highly regarded at the BBC, who are set to give the former England defender a prominent presenting role at next summer’s Olympics.

BBC programme Football Focus, which is hosted by Alex Scott, could be axed amid concerns over viewing figures

Dan Walker spent 12 years as the show’s presenter before stepping away from the role at the end of the 2020-21 campaign

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Football Focus formed part of Grandstand for 27 years before becoming a standalone programme in 2002. In its 49-year history there have been seven permanent presenters, with former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson fronting the show for 20 years before being followed by Steve Rider, Gary Lineker, Ray Stubbs, Manish Bhasin, Walker and Scott.

Mark Lawrenson, who appeared on the programme for 25 years before being let go last year, told Mail Sport: ‘It has served its time. It’s a football magazine show, but there are so many other options for viewers these days and so much competition. ‘It doesn’t surprise me. Football Focus is coming up to 50 years, which is an unbelievable run, although there was no competition 50 years ago.’

BBC sources insisted the decline in viewing figures mirrored those experienced by all linear channels in recent years.

A spokesperson told Mail Sport: ‘Football Focus continues to herald the start of a whole weekend of sporting coverage across BBC Sport. Week-on-week it is the most watched programme during that time slot and iPlayer viewing figures are also strong, so we know its popularity is enduring for fans.’


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