Inverdale in 2005
27 September 1957
Plymouth, Devon, England, UK
|Residence||Kingston upon Thames, London|
|Education||Cardiff Metropolitan University, University of Southampton|
|Occupation||Television and radio presenter|
|Employer||BBC Sport, ITV Sport|
During his radio career, he has presented coverage of many major sporting events including the Olympic Games, Wimbledon, the Grand National and the FIFA World Cup. He was the main television presenter of Today at Wimbledon until 2014 and has hosted television coverage of sports programmes including Rugby Special and Grandstand. He presents ITV's coverage of the Rugby World Cup and the French Open.
Since 2013, Inverdale has been embroiled in several broadcasting controversies, which have prompted criticism as well as articles written in his defence.
Inverdale was born in Plymouth, Devon, the son of a Royal Navy dental surgeon, Captain John Inverdale, who played rugby union for Devonport Services. Inverdale was educated at Clifton College in Bristol and at the University of Southampton, graduating with a history degree in 1979. He was the editor of the student newspaper Wessex News (now Wessex Scene) and captained the university's tennis team for two years.
After gaining a post-graduate journalism qualification at University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, he began his career with two years at the Lincolnshire Echo, and then joined BBC Radio Lincolnshire in 1982.
Inverdale began to work on the BBC's national radio stations in 1985, firstly on Radio 2's sports unit, then between 1990 and 1994 at Radio 5, where he presented the flagship sports programme Sport On 5. In 1994 he became one of the main regular presenters on the relaunched BBC Radio 5 Live. He presented the drivetime show John Inverdale Nationwide until 1997, for which he was named Sony Broadcaster of the Year in 1997. At 5 Live, he hosted the topical show, Any Sporting Questions, a variation on Radio 4's Any Questions, and similarly toured the UK each week. In 2008 he broadcast for 5 Live from the Olympic Games in China. Along with Sir Steve Redgrave he appeared at Shunyi Rowing Lake for the Olympics in Beijing.
Inverdale has headed 5 Live's coverage of the Wimbledon, Olympic and Commonwealth Games, football and rugby union World Cups, World Athletics Championships, Ryder Cup, Open Championship, London Marathon and Cheltenham Festival.
He has hosted the station's coverage of BBC Sports Personality of the Year and occasionally guest presents on Radio 2.
Inverdale has also worked regularly for BBC Television.
He hosted BBC One's sports chat show, Onside.
He presents the BBC's World Cup and Olympic Rowing coverage.
In October 2012, he filmed several episodes of Channel 4 show Countdown.
He appears as himself in BBC Three comedy Witless (2016) as the presenter of 'Witpro', a spoof video series about witness protection.
On 6 July 2013, the day of the Wimbledon Ladies Final, during a pre-match discussion on 5 Live with commentator Lindsay Davenport, Inverdale said of finalist and eventual winner Marion Bartoli: "I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, I just wonder if her dad did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, 'Listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker. You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you're never going to be 5ft 11, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that. You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen on the tennis court if you are going to make it', and she kind of is."
Inverdale's words prompted criticism on Twitter and other social media, with some alleging they had complained of his "sexist and patronising" view of women's tennis in the past.
Bartoli was yet to hear a recording of the incident when asked about it at a press conference the following day. She responded: "It doesn't matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I'm sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes. And to share this moment with my dad was absolutely amazing and I am so proud of it."
Inverdale himself apologised on air the next day for his "ham-fisted comments", saying that he had "understandably caused something of a furore" and that he had apologised to Bartoli by letter. He also spoke to her at the Champions Dinner that evening. A BBC spokesman said: "We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologise."
BBC Director of News James Harding was asked at a Women in Journalism event the following week whether Inverdale ought to be sacked. Harding said: "I think he said the wrong thing ... You have got to own your mistakes and apologise for them. I do think it's important that an apology too is an important thing and if you are talking about sacking someone, [you have to ask] is it proportionate. As a licence fee payer I think it was wrong." In the initial days the BBC received 674 complaints – the number rose as the story gained wider coverage.
Journalist Jan Moir supported Inverdale, writing: "The presenter was trying to say, I believe, that Marion Bartoli would never be the kind of sponsorship-bagging, classically beautiful glamazon who would make millions from even a mediocre tennis career, one that had never involved winning a grand slam. For her, the glory would lie in the majesty of her sporting triumph, not in glossy magazine deals selling tights.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller wrote to BBC director general Lord Hall, expressing concern and asking about "any further action that is likely to be taken". In his reply, Hall wrote, "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." Hall added that BBC executives told Inverdale that "an incident of this nature must never happen again". Racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks defended Inverdale as a "brilliant broadcaster" who "must not be hounded out of the BBC by Maria Miller". He asserted: "The [horse] racing industry should take this opportunity to embrace and support Inverdale. God only knows how many fans he has created with his enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge."
In a joint interview with Bartoli the following year, as promotion for ITV Sport's 2014 French Open coverage, Inverdale said he believed Miller's intervention, ten days after the original incident, was likely politically motivated and part of an anti-BBC agenda. Bartoli said: "I'd known John a long time, and I knew what he was trying to say. At the end of the day I am a tennis player, I know I'm not 6ft tall, I'm not the same long, lean shape as Maria Sharapova, but the beauty of tennis is that anyone can win, tall or short. Something the press took to be negative to me was a positive... In my mind it was never really a story."
2016 Summer Olympics
Inverdale received "intense criticism" while presenting the BBC's coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He and co-host, athlete Steve Redgrave, were seen to have "clashed" multiple times on television, with Redgrave allegedly being afforded little opportunity to speak. This led to negative social media commentary of Inverdale. Redgrave was observed directing jibes toward Inverdale, shaking a wet umbrella over his head, and even walking off the set. The BBC denied any hostility between the two.
Following the men's tennis gold medal final, Inverdale congratulated Andy Murray on being the first tennis player to win two gold medals; although Murray is the first player two lift two singles golds, Serena and Venus Williams had previously won four golds each between singles and doubles tennis. Inverdale's comment was criticised as sexist and also brought the 2013 Marion Bartoli controversy back to the fore on social media. The BBC stated that the comment was "a simple error". Also following the incident, Telegraph journalist Rob Bagchi wrote a piece titled "Why does everyone hate John Inverdale?", in which he defended Inverdale and suggested that critics were enjoying "the vicarious thrill in a sustained pile-on". The article was shared on Twitter by broadcaster Jeremy Vine.
Inverdale experienced further censure when he was accused of "ignoring" British heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua during an interview. Some defended Inverdale, saying he was attempting to catch the eye of French boxer Sarah Ourahmoune, whom they had been speaking of; she eventually joined them to talk.
On the final day of the Olympics coverage, Inverdale was criticised again during a boxing broadcast when he interrupted Joshua to speak about the victorious French boxer Tony Yoka, and claimed that Yoka and his partner may have become the first engaged or married couple to both win gold medals at the same Olympics, in spite of British cyclists Laura Trott and her fiancee Jason Kenny both having won multiple golds just days earlier, and married couple Kate Richardson-Walsh and Helen Richardson-Walsh having both won gold medals in the women's hockey just two days prior.
The day after this final Rio 2016 controversy for Inverdale, Mark Davies of The Spectator penned an article titled "In defence of John Inverdale", in which he wrote that the broadcaster had been subjected to a large volume of "totally unwarranted" censure. Davies felt it was "clear" what Inverdale meant during the Murray and Yoka incidents, and was doing "what all broadcast interviewers do" during the Joshua episode by looking for future interviewees.
During a 2014 BBC One broadcast, Inverdale said that England – rather than Great Britain – would play the United States of America in that year's Davis Cup; he apologised later in the programme. The comment nevertheless sparked complaints from viewers who found it to be "inaccurate and biased". The BBC called it an "unintentional slip".
During BBC Radio 5 Live's coverage of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, Inverdale said "rose-cunted" on air, in reference to glasses. He swiftly apologised, attributing his language to a "slip of the tongue". Ben Rumsby in The Telegraph called Inverdale's mistake "a genuinely unfortunate mangling of the words 'coloured' and 'tinted'".
At the 2016 Wimbledon Championships, Inverdale commented that tennis player Nick Kyrgios "lumbered off like a character from The Jungle Book", which led to allegations of racism on social media. The BBC declined to comment on the incident, beyond describing the number of complaints received as "small".
Awards and personal life
Inverdale received a Doctor of Letters honorary degree from the University of Southampton in July 2001. He was awarded an honorary fellowship to the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) in November 2009.
Inverdale lives in Branston, Lincolnshire with his wife and two daughters. He made national news in 2005 when his face appeared in many newspapers showing the scars he received whilst playing rugby union for Esher. He is a fan of both Southampton and Lincoln City football clubs.
In 2005 Inverdale became a patron of charity Cardiac Risk in the Young.
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