Jeremy Clarkson suspended: BBC Worldwide says Top Gear Live event in Norway on Friday, March 27 is still scheduled to go ahead and tickets are still for sale
Despite postponing the three remaining episodes of this series of Top Gear, BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial arm, is still selling tickets for four live shows in Stavanger on Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28.
Insiders have said they are confident Clarkson’s fate will have been decided before then, and with 20,000 tickets already sold for the Norwegian shows, BBC Worldwide does not want to have to cancel unless it has no choice.
It means that if Clarkson is cleared of wrongdoing over his “fracas” with a producer, he will make his comeback alongside James May and Richard Hammond at the Sømarka Arena in Stavanger on the afternoon of March 27.
Jeremy Clarkson leaving his home in London
BBC sources insisted the decision not to cancel the live shows should not be interpreted as a sign that they expect the BBC inquiry, led by Ken MacQuarrie, the head of BBC Scotland, to find in Clarkson’s favour.
A BBC Worldwide source said: “At the moment we are taking things on a day by day basis and as things stand the shows are scheduled to run as billed. It is not happening tomorrow, it is happening in eight days’ time, so we are waiting to see what the investigation delivers.
“No-one is really sure about the timing of the investigation’s decision, so before we disappoint 20,000 fans in Norway, at the moment we are going ahead with the show.”
If Clarkson is sacked by the BBC, his contract with BBC Worldwide would also be terminated.
Clarkson was suspended by the BBC on March 10 after reporting himself over an incident involving producer Oisin Tymon. Clarkson is alleged to have punched his collegue after being told he could not have steak and chips for dinner because the hotel where they were staying had stopped serving hot food.
The ticketmaster website is still advertising tickets for the Norway shows for sale at between £42 and £99.
Clarkson, who is paid a seven-figure salary to present Top Gear, has a separate seven-figure contract with BBC Worldwide to host the Top Gear Live events around the world.
And while his contract with the BBC is due to expire at the end of this month, his BBC Worldwide contract runs until September, with live shows booked for Australia and South Africa as well as the UK.
It means that if Clarkson is sacked BBC Worldwide would potentially face a much bigger compensation bill for the cancellation of the live shows than it would for the cancellation of the remaining three episodes of the current series of Top Gear.
The Top Gear live shows employ dozens of people, including stunt drivers, motorcyclists and roadies, and involve complex stunts with flame-throwers, ramps, chariots and acrobats. Most of the equipment and vehicles have to be shipped from the UK for each show, making them hugely expensive to stage.
The Top Gear team is contracted to host live shows in Sydney in April, Belfast in May, South Africa in June and the O2 Arena in London in November.
Meanwhile, the BBC reported that the Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans had said a friend had texted his show after eight days of silence. “It’s like a weight’s lifted off his shoulders,” the DJ said, without elaborating.
James May spent the day visiting his talent agency, which joked that it was looking for work for its new office boy.