IT seems that nobody leaves the BBC these days with good grace. More often than not there is a sting in the tail or a back handed compliment intended to slap back at the corporation.

It was not so long ago that a generation of time-servers, suitably remunerated over the years left to join new opportunities at Times Radio or at exciting new podcast opportunities like Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel’s The News Agents.

Maitlis marked her departure with a barnstorming McTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, rounding on the recent diktat of “impartiality”, which has been directed from on high by the BBC’s director general, Tim Davie (below).

The National: Tim Davie, the new director-general of the BBC has promised to crackdown on tweets sent by high-profile BBC employees. Picture: ANDREW MILLIGAN/PA

Many journalists took the directive to be a coded defence of the ruling Conservative Party and a rear-guard reminder that Brexit was a settled issue, beyond the scope of criticism.

That may have been a very partial interpretations of Davies’ directive but many of those that respect impartiality as a concept, resented the way that they were effectively stripped of their right to reasonable opinions in the maddening democracy of social media.

There is a withering phrase much beloved by senior HR managers when confronted with departing naysayers, they are demeaned as “disgruntled former employee” – a whisper in the ears of journalists that their departing complaints are not to be taken seriously.

Last week the departing voice was that of the once popular football co-commentator Mark Lawrenson, who spent 30 years as a high profile BBC pundit, after a successful playing career with Liverpool in the 1970s and 1980s.

When it comes to Lawrenson’s departure, “disgruntled” would be an under-statement, it was a full-on howl from the beast of yesteryear resentful that almost everything that the BBC has done to modernise sport.

Lawrenson told the Daily Mail – admittedly a far from impartial observer – that his BBC career ended because he was “65 and white”, remarks that played into the now familiar right-wing fallacy that the BBC is somehow ageist and “woke”.

The National: Former England international Alex Scott

Lawrenson had been openly sceptical about the appointment of Alex Scott (above), the young, black former footballer who replaced Dan Walker when he left Football Focus for the Breakfast couch. Scott is both black and female and so Lawrenson’s departure from the BBC is seen as the latest chapter in the culture wars within sport that have been ignited by the rise in popularity of women’s football, a lingering tension that exists both north and south of the border.

It is to the BBC enormous credit that they have fought internal and external battles to diversify their output and their on-screen talent. Much time and effort has been put into casting and talent development to bring people from diverse backgrounds to screen.

Anyone who doubt the scale of change should watch the new BBC One series Crossfire starring Keeley Hawes a B thriller telling the story of a woman on a family holiday whose life gets turned upside down when gunmen suddenly open fire. It is a masterclass in diversity casting and would not have looked the way it does in years gone by.

Casting shows is never easy and with the pressure to find new, diverse and gender rich contributors, mistakes will inevitably be made. Nonetheless, the rewards are enormous.

Scottish football media has already benefitted unearthing the informed and talented Leanne Crichton, a well-kent face in the women’s game who has made a self-confident shift to radio and television, despite the sexist intolerance that still confronts women players. She is not only a regular but among the most assured of BBC Scotland’s commentators.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon praises broadcaster Eilidh Barbour for awards ceremony walkout

The culture wars that have stoked sports broadcasting in recent years took a dramatic twist at The Scottish Football Writers’ Association (SFWA) when the broadcaster Eilidh Barbour and others, walked out of the event in protest at speaker Bill Copeland who was said to have made racist, sexist and homophobic comments.

Not only did the incident divide opinion it shone a light on some of the ancient practices that still cling to sports media, black-tie traditionalism, rubber chicken dinners and the clunky atmosphere of hotel function suites. In the aftermath of the walk-out Barbour a highly regarded commentator said she had “never felt so unwelcome in the industry.”

Sports broadcasting is a curious world with its own arcane rules. One presumption, hampering much of live radio, in both commercial and public service radio, is the fallacy that former players make the best analysts and commentators.

It was precisely this unquestioned legacy that gifted Lawrenson the job in the first place, and with each withering year he not only haemorrhaged popularity but became a figure of national fun. A virtual personification of casual insults like “dinosaur” and “gammon”. Scotland is not immune either. Too many former pros have made the move into media not always with conspicuous success.

If you were to compare sport with say film criticism you would be taken aback by the scale of difference. Across the years people like Barry Norman, Clive James and latterly Mark Kermode have dominated film criticism, none were film-makers, nor did they have to “show their medals” before their opinion counted.

The National: Michael Portillo is bringing his ‘Life: A Game of Two Halves’ show to the Cambridge Arts Theatre for one night only this weekend. PHOTO: Cambridge Arts Theatre.

The comparisons are endless, Michael Portillo (above) has never worked on the railways but his journeys are an engrossing distraction. To my knowledge Sir David Attenborough has never had sex with a polar bear but his commentary on Frozen Planet is peerless, and to force the point a stage further David Tennant has never been a serial killer but his portrayal of Denis Nilsen was chilling.

There is no doubt that successful professional footballers can bring expertise to the subject but so too do physiotherapists, gym teachers, sports psychologists, and fans from any manner of backgrounds. Of course, the door is not closed to them, but nor is it wide open and welcoming. I can understand that casting a former professional footballer is an easy option for broadcasters and brings in some cases the allure of their past glories, but it comes with a fatal built-in flaw too – it permits a form of group think where certain ideas and concepts are taken as given and immutable.

I recently had the bizarre experience of being invited on to Sportsound, BBC Scotland’s flagship pre-match discussion show. The reason I was there was to provide an alternative voice to the five former professional footballers broadcasting on the day. They were unanimous in their view that Celtic and Rangers both qualifying for the Champions’ League group stages was “great for Scottish football”.

Many fans, especially those of smaller SPFL Premiership cubs, had a wholly different opinion, that the money to be earned by the two big teams may be good for them but exaggerated an already unbridgeable financial chasm between the two Glasgow teams and their Scottish League competitors.

During the show the best defence that the ex-pros could come up with was that an uncertain some of the money – a relative pittance – would trickle down to others. It was like talking economics with Kwasi Kwarteng such was there unswerving conviction that the wealthy are beneficent and that money always trickles downwards.

Former players tend to bring insights and when they are witnesses to major moments in the game it is broadcasting gold-dust, but unintentionally, they also bring the baggage of the era they played in.

One of the groaning problems of Lawrenson’s latter years on air was that he was the product of a very different era and his ideas and values were shaped in different times. This led to him being anecdotal, nostalgic and often hopelessly out of date with the rhythms, data and complexities of the modern game.

Far from being an advantage, Lawrenson’s football career, with a great club at an epic time in Liverpool’s history had become a barrier not a benefit.

Lawrenson played in an historic era, but as a broadcaster he was marooned on the wrong side of that history.