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Monday, 22 January, 2001, 12:19 GMT
Ian Wright transfers to BBC
Ian Wright
Wright was awarded an MBE last year for his sporting achievements
Former England footballer-turned-presenter Ian Wright has signed an exclusive two-year deal with the BBC.

Wright - who has most famously fronted ITV chat show Friday Night's All Wright - is down to work on a range of BBC One entertainment shows.

He is also expected to host a programme on Radio 5Live.

But his first major assignment is to take over from Ant and Dec on the Saturday game show Friends Like These once the duo move to ITV later in the year.

Ant and Dec
The duo made their first move into prime-time with Friends Like These

"I am delighted to be joining the BBC," said former top goal-scorer Wright.

Ant and Dec - Anthony McPartlin, 24, and Declan Donnelly, 25 - signed their own exclusive deal with ITV earlier this year.

The deal involves both the end of their involvement with Friends Like These and their Saturday morning ITV show SM:TV.

Friends Like These, which began in February 2000, has been a big hit and much of the show's popularity was put down to Ant and Dec.

However, BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey said she was confident Wright could more than take their place.

"Ian brings a warmth and a freshness to everything he does.

"If the viewers have half as much fun in Ian's company as I have in the last few weeks, we'll know we got it right."

Success

In February, Ian will team up with former Crystal Palace team mate Mark Bright for a midday Saturday football show Wright & Bright.

The 90-minute show will be a combination of live chat and interviews every Saturday in the run up to Sport on Five.

The appointment of Wright could also be seen as a deliberately open move by BBC bossess to address director general Greg Dyke's comments that the BBC's ethnic staff representation was "simply not good enough".

However, speaking earlier this month Mr Dyke added: "We do not want to employ people just because they are from minority groups - we want to employ the best people for the job."

As a footballer, Wright played for Crystal Palace, Arsenal, West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Celtic and Burnley and England.

He retired from the game in July 2000, making his TV debut in January 1998.

Spin-offs from Friday Night's All Wright have been made, including Hidden Talents of the Rich and Famous.

Wright has also presented two series of Guinness World Records for LWT and three one-off Saturday specials, This is my Moment, Sing it Your Way for Carlton and An Audience With Lennox Lewis.

Wright, who was awarded the MBE in 2000 for his footballing achievements, said he chose television over football management because he felt he could be more successful.

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The BBC's Charles Rhodes
"Ian Wright is to have his own series on BBC One"
See also:

21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Ant and Dec plan SM:TV swansong
07 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Ant and Dec leave BBC
08 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Live & Kicking gets new look
12 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Children's favourites honoured
18 Aug 99 | Entertainment
Ian plans Wright move
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