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BT Sport 'regret' that stance on Billy Vunipola was misinterpreted by 'some viewers' during broadcast

The broadcaster has released a statement to The42, in which it defends its coverage of the controversial Saracens player.

Billy Vunipola (file pic).
Billy Vunipola (file pic).
Image: Simon Galloway

BT SPORT SAY they “regret” that their commentary in relation to Billy Vunipola was misinterpreted “by some viewers” during their live coverage of the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final between Munster and Saracens.

In a statement released to The42, a spokesperson for the broadcaster has defended the commentary surrounding the Saracens player — insisting that BT Sport “does not accept any sort of discrimination.”

They also say they regret that “some viewers felt we did not make BT’s position on this subject clear at all times.”

Vunipola received a formal warning from his club ahead of the clash with the Irish province, over his defence of Israel Folau’s controversial anti-gay views on social media.

He also wrote a separate post which included the line, “Man was made for woman to procreate that was the goal no?”

Vunipola was roundly booed by fans during the game against Munster, and a supporter was also banned from the Ricoh Arena after confronting the number eight following Saracens’ 16-point win.

Billy Vunipola is confronted by a Munster fan after the game A supporter confronts Vunipola after the game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

During the live coverage, BT Sport’s match commentator Nick Mullins said “it’s probably been the toughest week, 10 days” of Vunipola’s life.

“First time we’ve seen him smile for a while, I suspect,” Mullins added when speaking about the controversial player, who was selected as man of the match.

The remarks generated a major negative reaction on social media, with many criticising Mullins for how he described the backlash to Vunipola’s stance on social media.

BT Sport however, feel that the commentary was misread by some viewers, and said that the head of their rugby team, Craig Doyle, stated on air that homophobia has no place in sport.

The statement reads:

BT Sport does not accept any sort of discrimination. BT Sport, like the sport of rugby, is inclusive and welcoming of people, players and fans from any background.

“BT Sport and the on-screen team treated the appearance in the context of the rugby match and acknowledged how Billy’s performance may or may not have been affected by the last week and also the crowd’s reaction to him.

“We understand that this is a highly sensitive issue and we will always do our best to report these issues in a responsible manner.

We regret that during a live broadcast, where context can be misappropriated, some viewers felt we did not make BT’s position on this subject clear at all times.

“We have listened to the responses to the recent coverage and remain focused on ensuring we provide the best possible rugby coverage going forward.”

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