A BBC presenter has apologised for unjustifiably “humiliating” two Saints fans on live TV by joking that they looked overweight.
Dan Walker compared the pair, who were in the stands at St Mary's Stadium ahead of Nigel Adkins' side's final game of last season against Coventry, to Brazilian ex-player Ronaldo, who has significantly put on weight since retiring.
As the camera focused on the two supporters immediately after a pre-recorded interview with the former Barcelona and Real Madrid star, the Football Focus presenter said: “Looks like those two fellows are on the Ronaldo diet.”
The comment prompted a complaint for a viewer who believed Mr Walker had insulted both them and Ronaldo, arguing the comment was “a form of bullying and was disrespectful”.
Although BBC editorial chiefs rejected his objection, the viewer appealed to the BBC Trust, which has announced it has upheld the complaint.
Football Focus' editor said no offence had been meant by the off-the-cuff remark, and the trust's report revealed Mr Walker had emailed the complainant to personally apologise for the comment, which he admitted had been “ill-judged”.
The panel accepted Mr Walker had only known what pictures were about to be used a few seconds before going live and, having overheard an off-air discussion between the programme's editor and director, thought his comment would provide a light-hearted link from the interview.
But in its report upholding the complaint the trust said: “The committee did not consider that in isolation an off-the-cuff remark which implied Ronaldo was overweight would have been in itself offensive given he is a public figure and his weight and level of fitness as a former player were of interest.
“However, the committee felt that the comment referring to the two identifiable fans who are not public figures was humiliating, and did not meet generally acceptable standards in that it caused unjustifiable offence.”