Pitchside Europe

BT Sport ‘banishes Halsey to studio role’, but were PL involved?

Former referee Mark Halsey has been dropped by BT Sport for the live coverage of games as his controversial comments continue to cause a stir.

Halsey has been weighing in on referee decisions during BT's live matches throughout the season but it has been his comments away from the commentary box that have really caused controversy this season.

Earlier in the campaign he 'named and shamed' six referees who were 'not up to the job' while promoting his autobiography. Then just last week in a newspaper he called for the head of the Professional Game Match Officials, Mike Riley, to resign due to the poor performances of referees.

Since making the comments about Riley, Halsey has not been seen in the commentary box for the last three BT Sport games.

While not being entirely ditched by the channel, Halsey has reportedly been "banished to a studio role," despite the channel having initially said he would return for Saturday's match between Manchester United and Newcastle.

The Daily Mail's sports media commentator Charles Sale reported:

"The new BT line is: ‘Mark Halsey is a regular contributor. This weekend he will feature on BT Sport panel, the Saturday morning chat show hosted by Tim Lovejoy.'"

"The Premier League claim there has been no interference from them about Halsey’s future on BT Sport.

"But the Halsey camp believe that PL chief executive Richard Scudamore made his complaints direct to BT chief Marc Watson — even though Scudamore has been away on the Prime Minister’s trade mission in China.

"Halsey’s side also claim that Riley brought up the PL’s desire to get the ex-official removed from his BT Sport position at the referee’s meeting at St George’s Park this week — a version of events again disputed by the PL."

Whether Halsey was removed as a result of outside pressures remains pure speculation but it is common knowledge that Scudamore has not been a fan of the media persona Halsey has drawn up for himself.

In October, Scudamore, who is a qualified level five referee, accused Halsey of 'lacking decency.'

"It is disappointing when the game has given somebody so many years of matches and enjoyment and he chooses to go out and basically do the dirty on his colleagues.

"I just found that poor form for someone who you trusted. I personally expect better behaviour from those that we appoint to be match officials. I want more decent people than that."