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Saturday, 5 June, 1999, 03:24 GMT 04:24 UK
Paxman slams 'quiz professionals'
Magdalen College
University Challenge contestants frequently experience Paxman's tongue-lashings
University Challenge quizmaster Jeremy Paxman has criticised the team which won the show's final.

The Open University students beat their Oxford opponents by 265 points to 210.

But Paxman, 49, who was educated at Cambridge University, said of the winners: "Two of the members of the Open University team that won the competition are professional quiz players.

"What is more, one of the Open University guys had only signed up for a course at the OU so he could be on the team."

Jeremy Paxman says the Open University team was made up of "professional quiz players"
OU team members John Burke and Lance Haward have reportedly both been on Mastermind and Mr Haward also appeared on The Krypton Factor, Sale of the Century and Brain of Britain.

'I am not a professional player'

Mr Burke, 39, of Faversham, Kent, defended himself in the Daily Mail: "I hardly consider myself a professional quiz player.

"I had not even considered the quiz until I saw the side lose in 1998 and thought I could have answered the questions and so rang up to find out how to get in."

Mr Haward, 63, who lives in north London, told the Mail: "This curious idea seems to be going around that people should somehow be disqualified from going on a quiz show if they have too much general knowledge."

A BBC spokeswoman said: "It was well-documented that Lance Haward, from the Open University, had only applied to do a degree with the OU to get on the University Challenge team.

"We are flattered that the programme's popularity and reputation means that students will go to such lengths to be involved.

"University Challenge is, at the end of the day, a quiz show not an academic qualification."

See also:

22 Dec 98 | Entertainment
Youth wins the day in University Challenge
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