Gary Lineker to ‘step back’ from Match Of The Day amid asylum remarks row
By Alex Green, PA Acting Deputy Entertainment Editor
Gary Lineker will “step back” from presenting Match Of The Day until he and the BBC have reached an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media, the broadcaster said.
The presenter 62, has been embroiled in a row over impartiality after comparing the language used to launch a new Government asylum policy with 1930s Germany.
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.”
It is not yet clear who will stand in for him during Saturday’s edition of Match Of The Day.
The row was sparked by his response on Twitter to a Home Office video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the Government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.
The former England striker wrote: “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.”
He has since faced criticism from Downing Street, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Ms Braverman, who accused him of “diminishing the unspeakable tragedy” of the Holocaust.
However, support has come from media figures including Piers Morgan and Sky News commentator Adam Boulton.
After the announcement, ex-Blue Peter presenter Simon Thomas said: “I wonder what the end result would have been had @GaryLineker Tweeted his whole hearted support for the Government’s immigration policy & had used the same inflammatory words like ‘invasion’ that were deployed by @SuellaBraverman?
“This (100 emoji) would not have been the end result.”
Jon Sopel drew a comparison with the corporation’s chairman Richard Sharp, who has been involved in a cronyism row over him helping Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility.
The former BBC correspondent tweeted: “Lucky there are no producer guidelines on whether you need to declare facilitating an £800k loan to a prime minister while applying for a job as chairman of a broadcasting organisation…”
Lineker tweeted on Thursday that he was “very much looking forward” to presenting Match Of The Day on Saturday.
He previously told reporters outside his London home that he stood by his criticism of the immigration policy and did not fear suspension by the BBC.
BBC director-general Tim Davie warned staff about their use of social media when he took on the role at the end of 2020, and guidelines around social media use have since been updated.
Staff were told they need to follow editorial guidelines and editorial oversight in the same way as when doing BBC content.
Lineker is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent member of staff, and is not responsible for news or political content so does not need to adhere to the same rules on impartiality.
A representative of Lineker has been connected for comment.