Belfast Telegraph

Football Focus presenter Dan lashes out at faith critics

By Frank Brownlow

Focus presenter Dan Walker has hit back at claims that his devout Christian faith — believed to be creationist — will affect his new role as presenter on BBC Breakfast.

Walker has struck up a highly successful working relationship with former Belfast Telegraph journalist Sarah Brett on Radio 5 Live’s Afternoon Edition and is familiar to football fans as host of the iconic Football Focus.

Brett (41) tweeted her congratulations on Walker’s new job, adding that her pride was tinged with sadness at losing her co-presenter.

The 38-year-old will replace BBC Breakfast veteran Bill Turnbull at the end of the month, joining Louise Minchin on the famous sofa.

Walker’s religious beliefs mean he does not work on Sundays and he will co-present BBC Breakfast from Monday to Wednesday, while also continuing to work for BBC Sport.

“I thought we lived in a tolerant society where you can be a Christian, you can be a Muslim, you can be a Jew, and you can have those beliefs and get on with life,” said Walker yesterday.

“I want to live in a world where Gary Lineker can present Match Of The Day even though he’s a Leicester City fan and John Humphrys can do Radio 4 even though he’s an atheist ... that’s the world I want to live in. Not where I’m persecuted for being a Christian.

“I’ve chosen — and I don’t get anyone in a spiritual headlock, I don’t turn into a weird pumpkin at one past midnight on a Sunday morning - I just enjoy spending my Sundays with my family at church with my friends,” added Walker who said his faith would not “affect the way I do my job”.

He said in 2010: “I was convinced that it was the right thing to honour God and follow his commandments. Observing the Lord’s Day is a great privilege and brings with it loads of blessings.”

He grew up in Crawley, West Sussex, and is the son of a Baptist preacher.

Some critics have suggested that creationist beliefs — which in some cases include that the earth is less than 10,000 years old — will create difficulties on a wide-ranging show like BBC Breakfast where issues such as science and history are regularly tackled.

It is unclear exactly what beliefs Walker holds.

His spokeswoman would only say: “Dan is a Christian who believes that God is behind creation.”

Walker, who lives in Sheffield with his wife of 15 years Sarah and their three children, worked in regional radio and television before landing the coveted Football Focus job in 2009.

Previous to that he had covered Wimbledon, The Open, Aintree, Ascot and The Derby at Epsom as well as the Six Nations.

Walker was part of the BBC team covering the 2010 and 2014 World Cups in South Africa and Brazil.

He has for some time now been earmaked as one of the BBC’s rising stars and his move to the Breakfast programme will provide an opportunity to further showcase his talents.

The departing Turnbull was a star of Strictly Come Dancing and there will be opportunities for Walker to raise his profile even further as well.

Walker’s love of sport shines through but he will now have the chance to broaden his horizons.

It may be the case that radio will become a thing of the past for Walker, whose future appears to be as one of the BBC’s leading lights on our television screens.

Dan Walker is on the up and up.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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