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Gary Lineker reinstated as Match of the Day host after BBC tweet row

Lineker had been stood down from presenting the BBC’s flagship football show after criticising the government’s immigration policy

Lawrence Ostlere
Monday 13 March 2023 11:45 GMT
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Rachel Reeves says the BBC pulling Gary Lineker off the air was 'out of proportion'

The BBC has backed down in its row with Gary Lineker over his use of social media and reinstated the presenter as host of Match of the Day.

Lineker was axed from the flagship Premier League highlights show on the weekend after criticising the government’s immigration policy and comparing language used by the Conservative party with that of 1930s Germany.

A raft of BBC Sport presenters, pundits and commentators stepped back from their duties working for the broadcaster this weekend in solidarity with Lineker, including the Match of the Day analysts Ian Wright and Alan Shearer and the Radio 5 Live and Match of the Day 2 presenter Mark Chapman, forcing the BBC to air stripped-down highlights packages without the usual studio presentation.

Lineker refused the BBC’s request to effectively take back and apologise for his tweet, while the broadcaster’s director general, Tim Davie, also dug in, saying he would “absolutely not” be resigning over the chaos.

But Davie apologised for the furore and confirmed Lineker would return to hosting Match of the Day next weekend, after first returning to screen this Saturday to host the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley.

He said in a statement: “Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences. I apologise for this. The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air.”

Davie announced that the BBC would be formally reviewing its social media guidance, led by an “independent expert”, in order to clarify the rules in particular for its freelancers working outside news and current affairs, of which Lineker is one.

“Impartiality is important to the BBC,” Davie added. “It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression. That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles. The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate.”

The review’s chairperson will be announced in the coming days and the BBC’s current social guidelines will remain in place in the meantime.

Alan Shearer, left, boycotted this week’s Match of the Day in solidarity with Gary Lineker (Owen Humphreys/PA) (PA Wire)

“I am glad that we have found a way forward,” Lineker said. “I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”

He added in a series of tweets on Monday: “After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.

“I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost 3 decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday.

“A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you.

“We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you.”

The tweet by Lineker at the centre of the BBC storm criticised the government’s “stop the boats” message and accused the Conservatives of an “immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.

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