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Former Sky Sports chief Francis to leave broadcaster

Barney Francis, the long-serving sports executive at Sky, is to leave the UK pay-television broadcaster.

Sky announced the news on Twitter this afternoon, specifying only that Francis would leave the broadcaster “later this year”.

Francis (pictured) is best known for his decade-long tenure as managing director of Sky Sports, having followed on from Vic Wakeling in 2009.

However, doubts emerged about Francis’ long-term future at Sky upon his appointment to the new position of chief executive of future sport in May last year. That move, which came as part of a management restructuring in the wake of the Sky takeover by US media giant Comcast, saw Francis replaced by Rob Webster as Sky Sports’ managing director.

Speaking today, Jeremy Darroch, Sky’s group chief executive, said: “During his time at Sky, Barney has transformed Sky Sports, building a world class team and leaving a fantastic legacy. We wish him the very best from us for the future.”

Francis added: “I’ve been privileged to work for this great company for more than two decades. It’s been the stuff of dreams for a guy who grew up as a sports-nut.

“Yet the time is right to move on to new adventures in a changing world. I leave with thanks for the support of all our customers who have enjoyed Sky Sports during my time, and of course my colleagues and friends who I will miss greatly.”

During his time at the helm, Francis oversaw Sky’s acquisition of rights to the likes of Formula 1 motor racing, plus golf’s Open Championship and US Masters for the first time.

The broadcaster also added a raft of sport-specific and pop-up event channels to showcase its various properties and led a major push into broadcasting women’s cricket, golf and netball.

The bulk of the live rights to the English Premier League were also retained under Francis although he was left smarting after the loss of Uefa Champions League rights (to rival BT Sport) from 2015-16 onwards. At the time, he said that Sky’s Champions League audiences had fallen by 36 per cent over five seasons and that “not a single European game appeared in our top 40 football matches” during the 2014-15 campaign.

Francis joined Sky in 2000 and, as executive producer of Sky Sports Cricket from 2001 to 2007, he oversaw the broadcaster’s exclusive live coverage of domestic test matches and the addition of various production innovations for the sport. In 2007, he assumed the role of executive producer of Sky Sports Football.

Upon the switch to his new role, it was announced that Francis would focus on the changing world of sport and the place Sky and its sister company NBCU occupy within it.

Comcast acquired Sky in a £30.5bn (€35.9bn/$40.1bn) takeover completed in October 2018.

There was a high-profile exit from the Sky sports-rights acquisitions team in November last year as Richard Verow, commercial director at Sky Sports, left his role. His rights-acquisition responsibilities are being covered, in the meantime, by Webster and Sky Sports’ deputy managing director, Jonathan Licht.