BBC confirm Match of the Day will have no presenter or pundits after Gary Lineker stood down

The move comes after Alan Shearer joined Ian Wright in boycotting the flagship football highlights programme

Jack Rathborn
Friday 10 March 2023 21:19 GMT
Tory minister says Gary Lineker needs to study 'history books more carefully' after asylum row

The BBC has confirmed there will be no presenter or pundits on Match of the Day this weekend after Gary Lineker was shown solidarity by colleagues after being stood down.

The move comes after Alan Shearer joined Ian Wright in boycotting the flagship football highlights programme.

While Micah Richards, Jermaine Jenas and Alex Scott also ruled themselves out of appearing on the show, forcing the BBC’s hand with the former England striker told to “step back” from his presenting duties due to his use of social media.

A BBC spokesperson said: “Some of our pundits have said that they don’t wish to appear on the programme while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary.

“We understand their position and we have decided that the programme will focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry.”

Former Newcastle forward Shearer added: “I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night,” Shearer said.

Wright had earlier tweeted: “Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.”

Lineker has been involved in a row over impartiality after criticising the government’s asylum policy on small boats. The former England striker compared the government’s language in launching the policy with 1930s Germany.

Former England internationals Wright and Shearer are the two biggest names to regularly  appear alongside Lineker on Match of the Day and it is not yet clear who will replace them.

Sky News are reporting that Lineker has been pulled off air, rather than being asked to step back, with other pundits now reluctant to appear on the highlights show following the BBC’s decision.

Scott, who is scheduled to host the Saturday lunchtime programme Football Focus, tweeted a GIF which stated: “Nah, not me.” Richards said: “I was not due to be working on MOTD tomorrow, but if I was, I would find myself taking the same decision that Ian Wright and Alan Shearer have.”

Jenas later added: “I wasn’t down to be doing Match of the Day tomorrow, but if I was I would [have] said no and stood with my fellow pundits”.

The former Manchester United captain Gary Neville, who works alongside Wright on ITV, tweeted his support for his decision to boycott the programme. Neville commented: “I had no doubt Ian Wright would do that! Who the hell is going to go on now!”

Match of the Day’s lead commentator, Steve Wilson, said: "So sad that this has become the story rather than the tragedy of human beings struggling to find sanctuary. Having taken in refugees himself, Gary has surely earned the right to express his opinion."

Former Match of the Day host Dan Walker, who would fill in for Lineker before leaving the BBC for Channel Five, tweeted: “It’ll be very interesting to see how the editors, directors and producers all react to the decision.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC has been in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days. We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines.

“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.

“When it comes to leading our football and sports coverage, Gary is second to none.

“We have never said that Gary should be an opinion-free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.”

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