Gary Lineker had a ‘special arrangement’ with the BBC to tweet about refugees, says agent

Match of the Day star BBC thought he had arrangement allowing him to make comments about refugees and the small boats crisis, agent claims

Thomas Kingsley
Thursday 16 March 2023 09:17 GMT
Ian Wright criticises BBC bosses for creating a 'hot mess' by suspending Gary Lineker

Gary Lineker believed he had a “special arrangement” with the BBC allowing him to make comments about refugees and the small boats crisis, his agent has claimed.

Jon Holmes represents the football presenter, described the row as descending into “shambles” despite efforts to have “everyone calm down.”

He has claimed that his client believed he had an understanding with Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, that he could make public statements on certain issues.

Lineker thought he had ‘special agreement’ with Tim Davie over tweets, says agent (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Writing in the New Statesman, Mr Holmes said: “Gary takes a passionate interest in refugees and immigration and, as he saw it, had a special agreement with Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, to tweet about these issues.”

Mr Holmes stated that the BBC did not see it this way, and that he was “summoned” to Broadcasting House to try and resolve the row over Lineker’s comment on Twitter, which was ultimately deemed by the BBC to have breached impartiality guidelines.

Mr Holmes defended his client’s adherence to the rules, writing that he “believes in the independence and impartiality of the BBC” and supports the view that “those who work in news should not express political opinions on Twitter”.

He also shared that Lineker is “constantly being asked to appear on political programmes – including by the BBC” but “assiduously avoids them”.

The agent has argued that despite seeking to follow the rules, the guidelines for freelance presenters are “a bit vague” and require review.

Mr Holmes has said that he proposed a review in his first meeting with the BBC amid the impartiality row, on the Friday before Match of the Day was to be broadcast, and “told them taking Gary off air would not be helpful”.

Speaking to The Independent after Lineker was stood down by the BBC, sources close to the presenter said the BBC hierarchy, above BBC Sport, wanted Lineker to agree to a public statement that would have essentially amounted to an apology and an expression that he would be more careful on social media, which sources close to the situation said would have been rightly seen as the presenter “humiliating himself”.

BBC Broadcasting House in London (PA)

It was consequently the BBC’s decision to take him off Match of the Day. Lineker had already been in contact with Ian Wright, when the former Arsenal striker told the host that he would fully back him if anything changed and be prepared to walk from the show.

Mr Holmes, who also represents former England cricket stars Michael Atherton and David Gower, has suggested that Lineker has become a controversial figure at the BBC, in part because of the publication of his £1.3 million annual earnings.

He wrote: “The BBC describes Gary as an icon, a totemic figure. One of the reasons he has this status (apart from the money the BBC pays him, the subject of endless controversy since it was made public) is his huge Twitter following.”

He added that the former striker’s tweeting has been a subject of "difficult" debate.

Mr Lineker may also face a choice between BBC duties and his own production company, depending on the findings of an impartiality review, The Daily Telegraph reports.

It is understood the independent internal review is likely to clarify whether stars such as Lineker will have to give up outside media work, where there may be risk of providing a platform for political opinions, in order to continue working for the committedly non-partisan BBC.

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