During the week marking her 40th anniversary at the BBC, Barbara Slater, the inaugural female Director of BBC Sport, has today revealed her intention to retire from the BBC next spring.
As one of the most esteemed figures in the broadcasting industry, Barbara has revolutionised BBC Sport during her 14-year tenure. She has shifted perspectives and heightened the prominence and allure of women’s sports. This has solidified the BBC’s standing as the UK’s preeminent sports broadcaster and witnessed remarkable expansion and modernisation of BBC Sport’s digital offerings. Moreover, Barbara reinstated the FA Cup and cricket broadcasts on BBC television. She has overseen the production of numerous flagship sporting events, including 14 Men’s and Women’s Football World Cups and European Championships, 7 summer and Winter Olympic Games, encompassing the 2012 London Olympics, alongside Wimbledon, the Six Nations, and Match of the Day. She has also secured the future of live sports on the BBC through long-term rights arrangements.
A former international gymnast and Olympian, Barbara joined the BBC in 1983 as a trainee assistant producer in the Natural History Unit before transitioning to BBC Sport, where she focused on external broadcasts and supervised the production of various sports, including tennis and golf. Following promotions through roles including Head of Production and subsequently Head of General Sports, Barbara assumed the position of Director of Sport in April 2009.
Barbara was honoured with the OBE in 2014 for her contributions to sports broadcasting. She also received the Inspirational Women Award from Women in TV and Film in 2012, in recognition of the BBC’s successful coverage of the London Olympics – the most substantial TV event in the history of British broadcasting.
Barbara Slater says: “It was this week 40 years ago that I first walked through the doors at Broadcasting House. A career in BBC Sport has been an absolute passion, never just a job. Since joining in 1983 I’ve been privileged to have had such amazing opportunities and the delight of working with such talented colleagues and partners. There are a huge number of people to thank, and so many magical memories to reflect upon.
From being in the director’s chair for occasions like Pete Sampras’ 7th Wimbledon triumph to leading the move to Salford, seeing the extraordinary growth of our digital services and new talent excel. I also hope that in showcasing the brilliance of women’s sport the BBC has played its part in changing attitudes, increasing its profile and inspiring the next generation. I must also make special mention of the Olympic Games having been a competitor in 1976 and then leading the sports teams covering a home Games in 2012. It was a monumental achievement for the BBC and everyone involved, as the UK hosted a sensational Olympics in London. I will be following the BBC’s coverage of Paris next summer – this time as a proud sports fan.”
Tim Davie, Director-General, says: “Barbara has had an extraordinary career at the BBC – a pioneer, innovator and outstanding leader – she has kept the BBC at the forefront of sport for a generation. I wish her well. She will leave the BBC with a tremendous legacy.”
Charlotte Moore, Chief Content officer, says: “Barbara has had an extraordinary career at the BBC and leaves a legacy few will ever be able to replicate. She is a much-respected leader, a real trailblazer for women in the industry who can proudly say she has inspired the next generation.
Barbara has been at the helm for some of the most memorable sporting moments and brought the nation together in their millions. She has tirelessly driven BBC Sport forward in the face of an ever-competitive landscape. She is a passionate advocate of listed events and free-to-air sport and her commitment to increasing the profile of women’s sport in this country has been unrelenting.
Barbara leaves BBC Sport in fantastic health with major rights deals agreed with Wimbledon up to and including 2027, the UEFA Men’s Football European Championships in 2028, the Olympics up to 2032, the Champions League and a bold strategy in place for how we bring these incredible sporting moments to audiences across TV, Sounds, iPlayer and the website. I will really miss working with her but wish her all the best for whatever the future holds.”