Sky put Jeff Stelling on gardening leave as rivals start to circle the presenter
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Fans of Soccer Saturday and Jeff Stelling will ahve to wait until at least 2024 to see the iconic football presenter return to screens following his departure from Sky Sports.
The die-hard Hartlepool fan marked the end of an era at the end of the 2022/23 season, stepping back after almost 40 years of presenting football at Sky.
His energetic character and chemistry with colleagues on Sky Sports' famous Soccer Saturday programme became well-known, and there was relief among football fans last summer when he reversed his initial decision to retire to present for an extra year.
However following his tearful departure, Stelling hinted that he was not retiring for good, tweeting:
"It all seems like an out of body experience (with my body, you would want to be out of it). I wanted to thank everyone for the overwhelming number of kind messages. I’m going to take a few weeks to assess my options and then decide what is next."
Sky have not yet confirmed his replacement, while Stelling has been in talks with the BBC and Amazon Prime, as the latter looks to bring in a big name to present their coverage of the Champions League, for which they gain the rights to next year.
It has recently been revealed that Stelling will not be going anywhere until the end of this year at the earliest, as he is currently on gardening leave as the Daily Mail reported that the agreement between him and Sky does not run out until December.
This does mean that the iconic presenter will not be on television until 2024, and Sky will be unlikely to release him early to a rival broadcaster as they know the intrigue and appeal it would attract.
Stelling is not the first Soccer Saturday presenter to leave the show in the past few years, as the likes of Phil Thompson, Charlie Nicholas and Matt Le Tissier have also gone, though they were let go and did not leave on their own accords.
As Sky continues their revolution, long-term legendary commentator Martin Tyler has also been removed from live coverage, as the 77-year-old had also been at the Sky helm for three decades.
Fellow experienced commentator Peter Drury was announced as Tyler's replacement for the upcoming season.