Gary Lineker stepping back from role as Match of the Day presenter


2023-03-10 13:31:00

Gary Lineker is stepping back from his duties as Match of the Day presenter, the BBC has said in a statement.

But, Sky News understands that Lineker has not agreed to this, and the statement is incorrect.

A source close to the presenter has told Sky News that the corporation has taken him off air, as he is unwilling to apologise for his comments this week on social media and admit he should not have done it.

Following the announcement, football pundit Ian Wright said he will not take part in tomorrow’s Match of the Day programme in “solidarity” with Lineker.

The BBC said Lineker will not present the show until an agreement is reached on social media use, after being embroiled in a row over impartiality by comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum policy with 1930s Germany.

A spokesperson said the corporation 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,” a statement said.

“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.”

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Gary Lineker says he doesn’t regret tweet criticising Illegal Migration Bill.

The statement added: “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.”

It comes after the presenter, 62, said on Thursday that he would be presenting Match Of The Day on Saturday as usual after several days of intense criticism over his Twitter posts about the government’s asylum seeker policy.

A tweet from Lineker had suggested he was not reprimanded by the BBC for his comments about the small boats policy despite criticism from some politicians.

“Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days,” he wrote on Thursday.

Read more: A history of Gary Lineker’s most controversial tweets

“Happy that this ridiculously out of proportion story seems to be abating and very much looking forward to presenting @BBCMOTD on Saturday.

“Thanks again for all your incredible support. It’s been overwhelming.”

The BBC guidelines

Gary Lineker signed a five-year deal with the BBC in 2020, under which he agreed to adhere to their updated impartiality rules.

The rules for news and current affairs journalists are very strict, with their personal accounts treated as if they are part of the BBC’s output.

Because Lineker works in the sports department, he has more freedom to express his own opinion, but under the guidelines must still “avoid bringing the BBC into disrepute”.

They also state: “There are also others who are not journalists or involved in factual programming who nevertheless have an additional responsibility to the BBC because of their profile on the BBC. We expect these individuals to avoid taking sides on party political issues or political controversies and to take care when addressing public policy matters.”

Football pundit Gary Neville responded to the news on Friday, tweeting: “When you take on the Tories and the system! Awful people who we need gone.”

Read more:
Why lines are blurring between news and politics – Adam Boulton

Is the government’s new Illegal Migration Bill legal?

Lineker told reporters outside his London home on Thursday that he stood by his criticism of the government and was not worried about being suspended from the BBC.

His initial controversial tweet saw him compare the language used to announce the government’s policy with 1930s Germany.

It sparked a row over whether he broke BBC impartiality rules.

The former England striker is a freelance broadcaster for BBC Sport.

As he is not a permanent staff member and is not responsible for news or political content, he is not required to adhere to the same regulations on impartiality.

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But his comments drew criticism from Conservative Party politicians, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman telling the BBC that the comparison with pre-Second Word War Germany “diminishes the unspeakable tragedy” of the Holocaust, and that the remarks were “offensive” and “lazy and unhelpful”.

The new legislation proposed by the government would mean refugees arriving on small boats in the UK are detained and deported within weeks – either to their own country if it is safe, or a third nation if it is not.

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