Giant mistake

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Once again Wales’ biggest broadcaster has turned to a controversial Welsh sporting figure as an ‘expert’, without giving her problematic past, it has emerged.

This follows the publication by the giant organisation BBC Wales, of details in a contentious report saying Welsh independence is a “viable” option, but which failed to mention that the survey’s co-author stood as a candidate for Plaid Cymru (Plaid), her sister was a key figure in assembling the information, or that she wears her nationalism on her sleeve.

Laura McAllister as pictured on the questionable BBC ‘story’ which did not mention her controversial past

In the latest incident last week the BBC Sport Wales ‘report’ began: “Laura McAllister has welcomed Uefa’s decision to have at least two women on its executive committee (ExCo) – but warns further change is needed…”.

It added: “Currently, I’m the only female on ExCo, which is ridiculous,” McAllister told BBC Sport Wales…’, along with: McAllister is the first Welsh person to serve on Uefa’s executive committee, appointed on a four-year term last April…”.

But Professor McAllister has a difficult background.

She stood as a candidate for Plaid in Bridgend at the 1987 General Election (GE), and in Ogmore at the one which followed in 1992, although these facts were not included in the BBC ‘story’ about a report that Professor McAllister co-authored saying independence was a “viable” option.

From football to being used constantly as an expert for Laura McAllister

Professor McAllister is a former captain of the Welsh international football team, and closely tied to sport in Wales, as well as being at one time the chairwoman of ‘Sport Wales’, but a damning audit by accountants Deloitte, condemned the way contracts there had been awarded.

It said ‘Sport Wales’ risked damaging its reputation in the way it awarded contracts, by giving a consultant the specifications for a tender two days before his competitors.

Laura McAllister said she felt like a foreign tourist

Her sister, Fiona, was also a senior member of the research body which gave ‘evidence’ to the commission on possible independence, and accusations of a conflict of interest have been made.

Professor McAllister has, too, publicised the fact that she is a “Welsh woman” and that the BBC Proms made her feel like a “foreign tourist”, yet this was distasteful to many people in Wales.

Several years ago, Professor McAllister had written in her regular Welsh newspaper column:  “I do realise that my national identity (Welsh) has been shaped and expressed largely through sport, but the Proms’ Union Jack waving (albeit with a smattering of European, Welsh and Scottish flags mixed in) and Rule Britannia make me feel like a foreign tourist”.

One keen observer of the Welsh political scene told The Eye:  “It is extraordinary.

“NOWHERE does the BBC give the background of McAllister. Of course she would say that independence is a viable option! Nothing like impartiality in Wales. Does the word even exist in Taffia circles?!”

‘Of course her report would say independence was viable’

This comes at an awkward time for the corporation, as major questions are being asked in the media about its impartiality.

Recently The Daily Telegraph declared on its front page: ‘BBC audiences think the corporation is not “sufficiently impartial”, the Culture Secretary says today as she announces tougher scrutiny of the broadcaster to deal with perceived bias’.

But other issues also raise questions about Professor McAllister and the judgement of the BBC.

She talked to the notorious ex-lobbyist Daran Hill about electoral reform on Senedd tv, but he was later jailed, after admitting two counts of distributing indecent images of children and three counts of making them.

Apart from appearing on television with Mr Hill, standing as a Plaid candidate, and being constantly used as an ‘expert’ by the BBC, Professor McAllister went to Qatar as well to cheer on the Welsh football team at the World Cup (WC) there but fell foul of the authorities for wearing the wrong kind of hat.

Gay academic and former Wales football international, Laura McAllister, was told to remove her rainbow bucket hat when she cheered on Wales in Qatar

To commentators, publicly announcing her attendance at the WC seemed strange, as her sexuality (she is gay) would be treated as a crime in the country.

One outraged reader showed his concern in a piece about her on the nationalist website Nation.Cymru (NC).

The site has been accused of being a mouth piece for Plaid, and is supported by the taxpayer through the Welsh Government (WG), unlike The Eye.

Laura McAlllister was the ‘star’ mystery runner

He wrote underneath it: “It seems to me practically every TV programme produced by BBC Wales that requires an opinion on Wales (Welsh elections, Welsh Government policy, Welsh football) Laura McAllister is there. And now she’s off to Qatar to represent us. is there anything she can’t do?”.

Her appearance at a famous New Year’s race in Wales also provoked controversy, but on the BBC’s website it was stated blandly: “In 2023, McAllister became the first Welsh person to secure a place on Uefa’s executive committee and is also an academic and public policy professor at Cardiff University“.

However here too there are headlines which may be unwelcome.

Professor McAllister received support in her UEFA bid from the disgraced former newsreader Huw Edwards, who has flouted impartiality guidelines by publicly supporting the nationalist cause in Wales.

Mr Edwards stated on Twitter/X, initially ironically: “Obviously I’m impartial —- but GO LAURA” with a Welsh flag after the comment.

‘I wish I hadn’t done that…’

Yet perhaps she might not have wanted this kind of endorsement, because Mr Edwards was later named as the presenter who had been suspended for allegedly paying £35,000 to a teenager in exchange for sexually explicit images, and ‘mental health issues’ were raised about him by his wife.

Maybe other issues should also now be raised.

The main ones are why a major media organisation in Wales continues to use Professor McAllister as an ‘expert’ but fails to mention her headline-grabbing past, publicised a report she had co-authored saying independence was a “viable option”, without mentioning she had stood as a Plaid candidate, or that her sister was a key figure in assembling the information, and now how she has again been wheeled out for comment, but conspicuous by its absence in the story is her questionable background…

 

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Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.