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sport has long been a part of British culture – many of the most popular sports in the UK today, such as football, rugby, cricket and golf, were (or at least were thought to have been) invented in Britain.

And since the advent of television, the way that we consume sports has, in some ways, remained largely unchanged.

The 1964 launch of Match of the Day on the BBC featured a match between Liverpool and Arsenal, and for the first 35 years, the only presenter that was a former professional player as opposed to a trained journalist was the late-Jimmy Hill.

Current host Gary Lineker is the longest-serving of all, having been in the presenter’s chair since 1999.

He famously played for a host of top-flight clubs, along with three years at Barcelona, and is widely regarded as one of England’s greatest ever players.

Most, if not all, of the regular pundits on the show are also ex-professionals

Every week, we watch the likes of Alan Shearer, Jermaine Jenas and Danny Murphy analyse Premier League matches, and while their insight into the mind of the footballer is second to none, the show is often criticised for a lack of journalistic description and a failure to spark debate.

Tim Abraham was a reporter at Sky Sports for 23 years, before being made redundant in December 2016. He believes that the fame of ex-players plays a valuable role in how we consume sport and analysis on television every day.

He said: “This trend is bound to continue. It comes back to the old journalistic adage that names make news.

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Former players are names that the audience identify with.

“Signing up high profile pundits becomes a story in itself. It’s publicity for the Broadcasters, for example who next, (Wayne) Rooney?”

In comparison to its sister-show, Sunday evening’s Match of the Day 2 still has ex-players as pundits, but host Mark Chapman has been a trained radio and TV broadcaster since 1996.

MOTD2 features much more journalistic value than its Saturday night sibling, with Chapman asking divisive and often-controversial questions in order to spark debate.

And while Sundays tend to have less matches, freeing up more time for in-depth analysis, Chapman’s journalism training is key to his ability to ask the pertinent questions.

This is exactly why Abraham believes that, despite the apparent shift in preference towards former professionals, trained, experienced journalists are still indispensable in sporting media.

“There’s a balance to be struck,” he said. “I understand player perspective from an entertainment point of view, and good insight, but you still need proper journalists to cover the news stories and ask the difficult questions.

If there’s a news story that breaks, ex-pros are not trained to use journalistic instincts.

“Broadcasters whether in radio or TV are so far down the road of having pundits. The risk is if Journalists are dispensed with, then there’s no one to cover a news story when it happens.”

The saturation of former-professional players in football media gets higher with the passing of every season, and many other sports are also weighted more towards ex-athletes as opposed to sports journalists.

Former-tennis player Sue Barker fronts the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon. Ex-cricketers Ian Ward, Nasser Hussain and Sir Ian Botham represent just a fraction of the former-bowlers and batsmen that facilitate Sky Sport’s coverage of the sport.

The list goes on

Johnny Nelson and Carl Froch have swapped the boxing ring for the Sky Sports studio. Wayne Riley and Rich Beem gave up European and World Tour golf to follow a similar path. This article could turn into a 20,000-word essay if all were named.

Liam Duffy is the presenter of (Un)forgotten Podcast and avid MMA fan, and he believes that ex-professionals represent an integral part of the viewing experience for consumers.

He said: “When you’re watching sports on TV, you only have the viewpoint of a fan, and no matter how much you know about that sport, you will never have the same level of knowledge or unique perspective as someone who has participated in that sport at an elite level will.

“I love MMA, and I watch as much UFC as I possibly can, but I’ll never be able to have the insight that someone like Dan Hardy would. Journalists are good at what they do, but athletes just add more to the whole experience, and can teach fans a lot more than anyone else could.”

But what does the future hold for sports journalists in television? Is there a chance that, one day, this particular breed of reporter will die out entirely?

Tim Abraham doesn’t think so, though he refuses to rule out the possibility of a drastic cutback. He said: “I don’t think sports journalists will become obsolete, but they could be sacrificed in certain roles. If there was a danger of the role being lost it would be at specialist sports organisations like Sky Sports or BT Sport, not the BBC or Sky News where sports journalism and stories are important.

“In my own experience costs have been cut relying on pundits and ex pros who are part of the ‘live’ team, but the risk again is that when there’s a news story, they have a different agenda and won’t be at the beck and call of the news sections for in vision, live reaction, because that is not part of their brief. Journalists are on hand, and available all the time, pundits are geared towards live match days.”

Personal preferences about the people they see on their TV screens will always divide opinion, but as for the direction that the industry will take in the long run, current trends are exactly what they are – current. Will pundits and sports journalists work in perfect harmony? Or will pundits grow to condemn sports journalists to extinction? To use the old cliché, only time will tell.