The BBC’s sport service was decimated on Saturday after pundits and commentators refused to work in support of presenter Gary Lineker, who was forced to “step back” after accusing the government of using Nazi-era rhetoric.
On March 7, Gary Lineker, the face of the ‘Match of the Day’, responded to a video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats. Retweeting the video which was captioned, “Enough is enough. We must stop the boats”, Mr Lineker wrote, “Good heavens, this is beyond awful.”
Mr Lineker further wrote, “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.” While his comments received massive political backlash, the star anchor said that he stood by his remarks.
The Conservative government intends to outlaw asylum claims by all illegal arrivals and transfer them to other countries, such as Rwanda, in a bid to stop the crossings, which totalled more than 45,000 last year.
Mr Lineker has hosted refugees in his home and in 2016 criticised treatment of refugees in the UK as being “hideously racist and utterly heartless”.
A day later, on March 8, the BBC said it considered Lineker’s “recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines”, adding he should avoid taking sides on political issues. “The BBC has decided that he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media,” the broadcaster said in a statement.
Match of the Day, a Saturday night fixture since 1964 and the longest-running football television programme in the world, aired without pundits or a presenter for the first time after pundits and former England strikers Ian Wright and Alan Shearer immediately tweeted that they would not take part either, followed by the programme’s commentators.
Following this, other presenters also pulled out of a slew of BBC radio and television shows, forcing their cancellation and the airing of repeats and podcasts instead of usual live coverage of the packed Saturday sport schedule.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he hoped a stand-off between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be “resolved in a timely manner” after the British broadcaster’s sport service was decimated on Saturday. “I hope that the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in a timely manner, but it is rightly a matter for them, not the Government,” Mr Sunak said in a statement.
Gary Lineker is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent member of staff, and is not responsible for news or political content so does not need to adhere to the same strict rules on impartiality.
The BBC’s director general Tim Davie says he will not resign. “Everyone wants to calmly resolve the situation,” Davie said in a BBC interview. “I think that my job is to serve licence-fee payers and deliver a BBC that is really focused on world-class impartial landmark output, and I look forward to us resolving this situation and looking forward to delivering that.”
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