By Paul Jones
Scott Quinnell will be joining Gabby Logan as one of the new faces of BBC Wales’ Scrum V programme after the controversial axing of Phil Steele.
Former Wales and Lions star Quinnell – who has been a regular part of Sky Sports’ rugby coverage for over a dozen years – will step into Steele’s former role as pitchside reporter.
The move is part of BBC Wales’ strategy to throw more money at building a higher profile, celebrity presentation team in a bid to attract more viewers.
That leaves less money for producers make sure they have the latest on-screen gizmos and analysis tools, a criticism that has been levelled at BBC coverage in recent years, compared to their rivals.
After losing the contract to show live matches and highlights of the four Welsh regions in the old Guinness Pro14 competition, BBC Wales managed to get a foot back in the door with a secondary deal to televise some matches in the newly expanded United Rugby Championship (URC).
Premier Sports remain the primary rights holder, showing most of the 151 games live, S4C will be screening 27 live games, while BBC Wales will show 18.
It means a Friday night 7.35pm return for Scrum V Live, with Logan as the main presenter – as revealed by Dai Sport last week – and Quinnell roaming the pitchside.
The 49-year-old former Llanelli No.8 and dual code international will replace Steele, who has performed the role for the past 14 years.
The decision to replace Steele – not mentioned in the BBC’s own report confirming Logan’s appointment – has proved a contentious one with Scrum V viewers, who had grown accustomed to his homespun charm and knowledge of Welsh rugby that extended deep into the grass roots.
In fact, a group of fans were so angered by the move to remove him, they have started a petition to demand the BBC bring Steele back.
Jiffy. Would you be willing to share@my petition to bring back Phil Steele to the BBC pal. https://t.co/gJNudACOtQ
— Frenchy (@FrenchClive) September 17, 2021
Quinnell is also now an experienced broadcaster who was used extensively by Sky during this year’s Lions coverage with his travelling “Fan Van” that went around the UK.
Along with former England international Will Greenwood he also co-presented the School of Hard Knocks series aimed at helping young people get back into employment.
The move to bring in two high profile faces aligns with the wider efforts within BBC Wales to try to halt declining viewing and listening figures by hiring celebrity presenters.
— Dai Sport (@Dai_Sport_) September 12, 2021
But is goes against most conventional wisdom in sports broadcasting, where viewing analysis has shown that the attractiveness of the live sport itself is overwhelmingly the major factor that determines ratings.
In that respect, BBC bosses will be hoping the matches in the new URC are more entertaining than some of the turgid rugby served up in recent seasons.