What did Gary Lineker say?

Match of the Day host decries ‘immeasurably cruel policy’ in response to Suella Braverman’s immigration bill

Emily Atkinson
Saturday 18 March 2023 10:37 GMT
BBC row deepens over suspension of former football star and TV host Gary Lineker

The BBC was sent into meltdown this weekend after presenters and pundits staged a mutiny in solidarity with Gary Lineker, who has been forced off air over a tweet about the government’s asylum crackdown.

Lineker, who has hosted Match of the Day for almost a quarter of a century, has been embroiled in a row over impartiality after comparing the language used to launch a new asylum policy with 1930s Germany.

The comparison saw Lineker suspended from the helm of the popular BBC show – prompting several fellow pundits, including Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, and Alex Scott, to announce they would not be taking part in solidarity with the former England striker.

Saturday’s episode of Match of the Day lasted “just 20 minutes”, taking the form of a heavily limited highlights programme, cobbled together at the last minute by panic-stricken producers.

So, what was the tweet that sent the BBC reeling?

On Tuesday, Lineker wrote on Twitter about a video in which home secretary Suella Braverman unveiled plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats and said the UK is being “overwhelmed”.

Ms Braverman, who was previously chastised for comparing migrant crossings to an “invasion”, has been heavily criticised for her use of language around the matter.

“Good heavens, this is beyond awful,” Lineker wrote in response to the video.

Replying to the sports broadcaster, another Twitter user described his comment as “out of order”, adding that it was “easy to pontificate when it doesn’t affect you”.

Lineker responded: “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, and I’m out of order?”

Some MPs described Mr Lineker’s comments as ill-judged – but the presenter hit back at his critics, accusing some “free speech champions” of “demanding silence from those with whom they disagree”.

And in a follow-up tweet on Wednesday morning, he vowed to continue speaking up for the “voiceless”.

A statement from the BBC says that Lineker not be returning to his long-time presenting role “until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media.”

Saturday night’s limited Match Of The Day was watched by 2.6 million viewers, according to overnight figures reported by BBC News – up by nearly half a million on last week’s show.

However, the programme was radically different with a reduced run time and featuring only short highlight clips of the day’s matches.

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