Steve Thompson suspended by the BBC for describing clash between players as ‘handbags’


The BBC suspends football pundit for describing clash between players as ‘handbags’ amid fury at the corporation’s ‘ludicrous levels of PC’

  • Steve Thompson, 65, has been suspended from BBC punditry until the new year
  • The ex-footballer used the term ‘handbags’ during Tuesday’s Lincoln City game
  • Fans have reacted in outrage at the BBC’s decision to remove the popular pundit 

Football pundit Steve ‘Tommo’ Thompson has been suspended by the BBC for describing a clash between players as ‘handbags’.

The 65-year-old was laid off until the end of the year for using the familiar match day phrase after listeners complained.

Thompson, who works as a freelancer, made the comment on on BBC Radio Lincolnshire during Lincoln City’s 1-0 win at Swindon Town on Tuesday.

Explaining its decision to suspend Thompson, the BBC said the term ‘handbags’ did not meet its standards. 

Football pundit Steve ‘Tommo’ Thompson (pictured) has been suspended by the BBC for describing a clash between players as ‘handbags’

The BBC said: ‘After listeners raised concerns, Steve acknowledged some of his comments on air didn’t meet the standards we expect. 

‘He is taking a break but will be back in the New Year.’

But fans have reacted in outrage at the BBC’s decision, arguing using the well-known phrase did not merit Thompson’s immediate suspension.

Marcus Greatorex told The Sun: ‘It’s just an old term. The BBC should pay more attention to songs on their stations promoting knife crime and drug use.’ 

Thompson, who works as a freelancer, made the comment on on BBC Radio Lincolnshire during Lincoln City¿s 1-0 win at Swindon Town on Tuesday

Thompson, who works as a freelancer, made the comment on on BBC Radio Lincolnshire during Lincoln City’s 1-0 win at Swindon Town on Tuesday

Lincoln fan Bernard ­O’Mahoney, who is campaigning for Thompson’s reinstatement, said: ‘As any football fan knows, “handbags” is an incredibly well-known saying.

‘I can’t begin to think who’d be offended by it. The BBC has lost touch with the public.’

‘Handbags’ is such a common term in sports commentary that it appears in the Collins Dictionary.

It is described as ‘an incident in which people, ­especially sportsmen, fight or threaten to fight, but without real intent to inflict harm’.

Thompson is a former Lincoln City player and manager and is said to be ‘devastated’ by the suspension.

Social media users slammed the move as ‘beyond pathetic’, arguing the term was inoffensive.

 Darren Dixon said: ‘The BBC are back with their ludicrous levels of PC!’ 

Another user commented: ‘I’ve been watching football for decades and heard this phrase numerous times. 

‘It is not in the least offensive. It perfectly describes the histrionics displayed by some footballers when they square up to each other.’

The BBC lags behind Channel 5, Channel 4 and ITV among viewers for its perceived impartiality, according to research by Ofcom. Only 58 per cent believe the corporation's coverage is impartial, a fall of 1 per cent on last year. This decline was enough to see it drop to the bottom of the list below Channel 5, which saw its own figure rise from 58 to 61 per cent

The BBC lags behind Channel 5, Channel 4 and ITV among viewers for its perceived impartiality, according to research by Ofcom. Only 58 per cent believe the corporation’s coverage is impartial, a fall of 1 per cent on last year. This decline was enough to see it drop to the bottom of the list below Channel 5, which saw its own figure rise from 58 to 61 per cent

Essie Jay said: ‘Not offended in the least! This is beyond pathetic. We even use that term ourselves when watching the rugby if it gets heated.’

It comes after viewers rated the BBC as the least impartial news broadcaster, according to research by Ofcom.

The broadcaster lags behind Channel 5, Channel 4 and ITV for its coverage, the research revealed this week.

Only 58 per cent believe the corporation’s coverage is impartial, a fall of 1 per cent on last year. 

Jo Brand’s ‘milkshake’ comments on R4’s Heresy show received the MOST complaints – behind BBC coverage of President Trump’s state visit and the 2019 General Election

In its annual report on the BBC, broadcasting watchdog Ofcom revealed that an edition of comedy show Heresy was the most complained-about.

In an episode of the programme aired on Radio 4 on June 11, 2019, comic Jo Brand said the following about milkshakes being thrown at politicians – 

‘I think that’s because certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they’re very, very easy to hate and I’m kind of thinking why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid – that’s just me and it’s all right, I’m not gonna do it, it’s purely a fantasy, but I think milkshakes are pathetic. I honestly do – sorry’.  

The BBC assessed 441 complaints it received under the BBC First process that the comments were highly offensive and likely to incite violence. 

Ofcom then received six complaints which had completed the BBC’s complaints process, but concluded that the complaints did not warrant further investigation by the broadcasting watchdog. 

It explained that Brand’s comments had ‘clear potential to offend listeners’ but were justified because of the programme’s ‘satirical’ nature.

‘We also took into account that Ms Brand immediately qualified her comments, making it clear they should not be taken seriously or acted upon’, the report states. ‘We therefore concluded that the complaints did not warrant further investigation by Ofcom’. 

The other most complained-about programmes were: 

  • European Election Results, BBC One, May 26, 2019: 111 complaints that this coverage was biased against the Brexit Party; 
  • BBC News/Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Two, June 3, 2019: 97 complaints that coverage of President Trump’s visit to the UK was not duly impartial; 
  • Andrew Marr, BBC One, April 14, 2019: 91 complaints about David Lammy comparing Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson to Hitler; 
  • BBC News, BBC One, November 23, 2019: 79 complaints that a clip of Boris Johnson answering a question at a Question Time Leaders’ Debate had been edited to remove audience laughter. 

In all these cases, unlike Heresy, Ofcom received no complaints that had completed the BBC First process.  

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