Ian Wright and Alan Shearer have announced they will not be appearing on Match of the Day out of “solidarity” with Gary Lineker, who the BBC have asked to “step back” from presenting the show due to his use of social media.
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.
Wright was scheduled to be a pundit alongside Lineker but tweeted to say he will not be doing so after the BBC’s statement. His tweet was followed by Shearer, who has told Match of the Day bosses he will not be appearing on the show. Their stance was support by Micah Richards and Alex Scott.
“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.”
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.
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.” Scott, who is scheduled to host the Saturday lunchtime programme Football Focus, tweeted a GIF which stated: “Nah, not me.”
The former Manchester United captain Gary Neville, who works alongside Wright on ITV, tweeted his support for his decision to boycott the programme. Neville said: “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: “Match Of The Day is an amazing programme.
“Gary Lineker is a top presenter and the production / pundits are top drawer. Ian Wright and Alan Shearer have said they won’t be involved.
“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.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies