BBC director-general Tony Hall has called presenter John Inverdale’s comments about Wimbledon winner Marion Bartoli ‘totally unacceptable’.
More than 600 people complained about the sports broadcaster when he said the Wimbledon winner was ‘never going to be a looker’, ahead of the women’s singles final.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller wrote a robust letter to the director-general attacking sexist sports coverage and asking to be kept informed about any further action which would be taken over the presenter’s comments on BBC Radio 5 Live.
The BBC boss said such an incident ‘must never happen again’ and assured her the BBC had a ‘proud record’ of supporting women’s sport, as well as working hard to ensure respect in the workplace.
He said: “I agree that the comments made by John during the build-up to the Women’s Final were totally unacceptable and fell well beneath the standards we expect of our presenters.
“John sincerely regrets that he made such an inappropriate statement and for the offence caused. As he said on air the following day, he has written to Marion Bartoli to apologise and the BBC has also apologised for John’s remarks.
“In addition, the director of sport and the controller of 5 live have both spoken to John to make it clear that his comments were unacceptable and that an incident of this nature must never happen again.”
The Culture Secretary was moved to write her letter over the ‘derogatory’ way the tennis star was treated during Wimbledon.
She wrote: “It is … a matter of some concern to me that any comment on the looks and stature of a female athlete could be made in the context of one of the highlights of the UK’s, and indeed the world’s, sporting calendar.
“I am sure you will agree with me that it is vital that young women and girls in this country feel motivated both to take part in and to watch coverage of sport, and to know that they are included in the enjoyment of sport, and catered for by the media just as much as the male audience.”
She is understood to have met broadcasters a number of times over the last year to encourage them to improve coverage of women’s sports.