Gary Lineker: BBC wants former England striker and presenter back on air, says director general Tim Davie | Football News
BBC director general Tim Davie says the corporation wants Gary Lineker back on air.
Match of the Day host Lineker was suspended on Friday following his criticism of the government’s controversial asylum policy, leading to a number of BBC football shows across TV and radio being taken off air on Saturday after presenters and commentators pulled out in “solidarity”.
Final Score and Football Focus were pulled from BBC One while the late-night Match of the Day programme was trimmed to 20 minutes with no opening theme tune, pundits or commentary. It is still not clear if MOTD 2 will go ahead on Sunday after host Mark Chapman did not host Radio 5 Live Sport on Saturday.
Lineker, who watched Leicester’s 3-1 defeat to Chelsea at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, is stepping back from MOTD until an “agreed and clear position” on his social media use is made, after he compared the language used to launch a new government asylum policy with that of 1930s Germany.
Davie apologised for the disruption to the BBC’s services and hailed Lineker. He said: “Let’s be clear – we’ve got the best sports broadcaster in the world.
“We want to make sure that he can come back on air, we work together to make that happen and everyone wants to see a reasonable solution to this.
“As a keen sports fan, I know to miss programming is a real blow and I’m sorry about that. We are working very hard to resolve this situation and make sure we get output on air.
“I am in listening mode. I want to make sure that going forward, we have a workable solution.”
Presenters who have pulled out of BBC programmes over Lineker row
- Alex Scott – hosts Football Focus and other BBC football coverage
- Jason Mohammad – has presented Final Score since 2013
- Alan Shearer – former England footballer who has presented at the BBC on-and-off since 2006
- Ian Wright – another former England star who has presented at the BBC regularly since 2017
- Mark Chapman – the regular host of Match of the Day 2 on Sundays, as well as host of 5 Live Sports on Saturdays
- Kelly Somers – covers matches for BBC football shows, and was seen as a contender to host Football Focus
- Dion Dublin – Former Manchester United player and regular Football Focus pundit – alongside hosting duties for Homes Under The Hammer
- Colin Murray – a BBC Radio 5 Live mainstay and hosts the Fighting Talk show on the station
- Jermain Defoe – a regular pundit on Match of the Day 2
Quizzed on whether Lineker would have been removed from his position had he supported the government’s Illegal Migration Bill, Davie said he was “not going to go through all the hypotheticals of the past” and that “we deal with these things on an ongoing basis”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he hopes the BBC can resolve its row with Lineker in a “timely manner” but the dispute is not something the government should get involved in. In a statement, he said Lineker “was a great footballer and is a talented presenter”.
Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said the PM was offering “weasel words” and trying “desperately to duck any responsibility”.
Earlier in an email to staff, the BBC’s director of sport, Barbara Slater, said: “We understand how unsettling this is for all of you – the staff in BBC Sport and our freelance community. And we understand the strength of feeling which has been generated by this issue.
“Individual heads of department and lead editors will be updating teams as and when they can, so if you have any specific questions about your role, please contact your line manager.
“We are working hard to resolve the situation and we will update you as soon as possible.”
How the BBC boycott started
The boycott began when former Arsenal striker and pundit Ian Wright said on Friday evening that he would not take part in Saturday’s Match of the Day programme in “solidarity” with Lineker, while former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer later announced he would also not be taking part in the show.
In Friday’s episode of his podcast Wrighty’s House, Wright added: “I’ll tell you something. If they do – the BBC get rid of Gary Lineker – I’m out, I’m gone. I’m not staying there. On his own platform he should be able to say what he wants to say.”
Former Arsenal and England defender Scott ruled herself out of presenting Saturday’s MOTD, by tweeting: “FYI…” and a GIF which quotes “Nah! Not me”.
MOTD regulars Micah Richards and Jermaine Jenas also said they would not be appearing on this weekend’s show.
Final Score and Football Focus were pulled from BBC One on Saturday after their respective hosts, Jason Mohammad and Scott, said they would not host their shows.
BBC 5 Live’s Fighting Talk also did not air on Saturday morning for what host Colin Murray said were “obvious reasons” and host Mark Chapman withdrew from hosting BBC Radio 5 Live Sport.
Premier League players were also not asked to do interviews for MOTD on Saturday and instead did interviews for BBC Radio.
The BBC guidelines…
Gary Lineker signed a five-year deal with the BBC in 2020, under which he agreed to adhere to their updated impartiality rules.
The rules for news and current affairs journalists are very strict, with their personal accounts treated as if they are part of the BBC’s output.
Because Lineker works in the sports department, he has more freedom to express his own opinion, but under the guidelines must still “avoid bringing the BBC into disrepute”.
The BBC guidelines also states: “There are also others who are not journalists or involved in factual programming who nevertheless have an additional responsibility to the BBC because of their profile on the BBC. We expect these individuals to avoid taking sides on party political issues or political controversies and to take care when addressing public policy matters.”
Why is the focus on Lineker? What are the BBC guidelines?
More from Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“Lineker signed a five-year deal with the BBC in 2020 and he agreed to adhere to their impartiality rules.
“Now, the rules are a little bit different depending on what area of the BBC you work in. For instance, if you work in news and current affairs as a journalist, the rules are very strict. You have to be totally impartial.
“But of course, Lineker doesn’t work in news or current affairs. He works in the sports department so he has a little bit more freedom, but he still has to avoid bringing the BBC into disrepute, and as a high-profile figure on the BBC, he has additional responsibilities.
“According to the BBC, they expect these individuals to not take sides on party political issues or political controversies.
“A lot of people will be saying, what about other people who appear on the BBC? Do they adhere to these rules?
“What about the chairman of the BBC himself, Richard Sharp, who is somebody who has donated £400,000 to the Conservative Party? He is somebody who has helped to arrange an £800,000 loan for the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“What about another member of the BBC board, Sir Robbie Gibb. He was of course the former communications director for Theresa May, the former Prime Minster.
“So, there are a lot of people coming to the support of Lineker and saying why is it that he is being picked on? Why are sections of the media and the press just focussing on Lineker? Why are we talking about Lineker when we should be talking about the government’s proposed new asylum policy, which has been criticised by human rights groups and it has been criticised and condemned by the United Nations?
“I was at the World Cup in Qatar. When it comes to criticising Qatar about human rights issues, it appears that everybody is allowed to say what they want in this country. Lineker was allowed to criticise the human rights record of Qatar on the BBC but why is he not allowed to comment on the human rights record of the country he lives in?”