ABC veteran Barrie Cassidy is likely to stand down as the host of sports review show Offsiders next year, with regular panellist Gerard Whateley the frontrunner to take over.

Cassidy’s expected departure has been caused by scheduling changes following the ABC’s decision to axe Inside Business at the end of this season. Inside Business is currently sandwiched between political analysis program Insiders and Offsiders, both hosted by Cassidy. Next year, however, Insiders and Offsiders will air back-to-back on Sundays from 9am. This would require Cassidy to shift instantly from politics to sport without the luxury of a briefing or the chance for a breather.

While no final decision has been made, Crikey understands Cassidy has spoken with some regular program guests about the possible change. Offsiders was launched in 2006 and quickly hailed as a sports show for the “thinking man (and woman)”. At the time, Cassidy said: “There are lots of sport shows that mostly appeal to the yobbos. Surely it can’t be beyond us to come up with a program that is a little more soundly based around sport without being elitist.”

Whateley — who commentates on AFL, tennis, horse racing and other sports — is highly rated within the ABC and has long been viewed as Cassidy’s heir apparent. The Black Caviar biographer is Offsiders‘ go-to replacement host when Cassidy is away and was involved in the show’s development. He is also based in Melbourne, where both Insiders and Offsiders are filmed. Whateley was tight-lipped this morning when asked whether he would host the program next year. “I don’t know the answer to that,” he said.

Both Insiders and Offsiders are expected to relaunch in 2014 with a new look, including new set designs. There was previously speculation the ABC would merge Insiders, Offsiders and Inside Business into a live, two-hour program but that has not come to pass.

ABC current affairs boss Bruce Belsham decided not to renew Inside Business last month after Alan Kohler flagged he would not continue on as host next year.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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