One BT Sport commentator speaks out this week on his poor comments about non league during Brighton’s 2-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday afternoon.
Football was back on our screens, but one moment caused Bognor Regis Town to hit out at BT Sport for what Ian Darke said when talking about the Seagulls’ Lewis Dunk, who got on the scoresheet at the Amex Stadium.
Neal Maupay scored the winner five minutes into added time over the Gunners, who had earlier seen goalkeeper Bernd Leno stretchered off.
Pepe opened the scoring with just over 20 minutes remaining, a superb curling shot gave Arsenal a deserved lead.
However Lewis Dunk slid in to bundle home an equaliser from close range following a corner seven minutes later.
After scoring for the relegation threatened side, comments were made, belittling non league.
Darke could be heard saying: “Lewis Dunk must be used to playing in a stadium with no fans as he used to play for Bognor Regis Town.”
He ended up getting slammed from the Isthmian League Premier Division outfit as well as the non league community.
“Lewis Dunk must be used to playing in a stadium with no fans as he used to play for Bognor Regis Town” – snapshot of no fans at Havant away not too long ago. @btsport @rocks1883 @IanDarke pic.twitter.com/IBDbx1FflO
— Liam Goodley (@LiamGoodley) June 20, 2020
Bognor took to Twitter, saying: “@btsport if you want to make disparaging comments about Non-League can we remind you how the whole #NonLeagueFamily is on its knees.
“Can we also remind you many current Premier League stars made their way into the game via Non-League football.
“@vardy7 being a good example ?
“Very disrespectful comment @btsport about the whole of the non league game ?
They added: “Many clubs will sadly not get through this and there we have those involved at the top making cheap shots on prime TV.”
“Lewis Dunk must be used to playing in a stadium with no fans as he used to play for Bognor Regis Town”
Very disrespectful comment @btsport about the whole of the non league game?
— Bognor Regis Town FC (@rocks1883) June 20, 2020
Bognor coach Robbie Blake tweeted: “Very poor comments… that sort off sums football up at the minute. So much disrespect and no regards for grassroots football, which is the bedrock of English football. Made up of fantastic true supporters and love for their clubs.”
Darke has since told the Chichester Observer it was not meant as a slur against non league nor the clubs involved.
He said: “I think a few people are being a little over-sensitive here. No disrespect whatsoever was meant to Bognor, Lewes or non-league football.
“I know the struggles these clubs have to go through just to survive.
“I was merely making the point that Solly March and Lewis Dunk were a couple of Brighton players who had not always played in the pumped-up atmosphere of the Premier League and so might not find the environment at the moment so difficult.
“If some people thought that remark was a swipe at non-league football, I am sorry. But it was certainly not the intention.
“As I think people at Chichester City FC will confirm, my commentary on their fabulous FA Cup day at Tranmere contained huge appreciation for their brilliant achievement.
“Non-league football is the lifeblood of the game and long may it flourish.”
Bognor tweeted again the day after the Premier League fixture, adding: “We know no offence was meant but the fact that we have this (crowdfunding initiative) going to keep us alive shows how poor the comment was.
“We’re not offended, but want to point out that non-league football exists and is key for many.”
The club tweeted on Tuesday after seeing the apology: “Huge shout out to @IanDarke for the comments. Fair play for coming back to us and the whole Non-League family.
“We hope to be back at the lane soon. Up the Rocks”
It isn’t the only time that a dig has been made by BT Sport, after journalist Mark Carruthers revealed there was a similar comment about Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy at his former club Stocksbridge Park Steels on one of the games earlier in the week.