Gary Lineker: BBC’s flagship football show faces boycott over impartiality row


The BBC’s weekend football coverage has been plunged into chaos after it was announced that Gary Lineker will “step down” from the show after being embroiled in an impartiality row when he criticized British government policy on Twitter.

The broadcaster now faces a boycott by pundits, presenters and even players on its flagship football show ‘Match of the Day’, while other football programs – Football Focus and Final Score – and some radio programs have been forced off air as a result her delirium.

Lineker criticized the government’s controversial new policy on asylum seekers on Tuesday and then stepped down from presenting duties this week after the BBC said his tweets breached its guidelines, specifically its commitment to “due impartiality ».

The BBC’s decision has sparked controversy, leaving the organization under fire from opposition politicians, the BECTU union that represents BBC staff and its former director-general Greg Dyke.

“The BBC will only be able to carry a limited sports program this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect this,” a BBC spokesman said in a statement on Saturday.

“We regret these changes which we recognize will be disappointing for fans of BBC sport.

“We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.”

On Tuesday, Lineker tweeted “Good heavens, this is beyond awful” in a video posted on Twitter by Britain’s Home Office announcing the new proposed policy – an attempt to stop migrant boats crossing the English Channel from France, which has been criticized by the United States Nations and other world bodies.

He added: “There is not a huge influx. We accept far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably harsh policy aimed at the most vulnerable people in language not dissimilar to what Germany used in the 1930s, and I’m out of business?’

As Britain’s public broadcaster, the BBC is committed to “due impartiality” – a much-debated term which the organization defines as “the power to be consistently accountable”, while not “allowing us to campaign to change public policy”.

On Friday, the BBC announced that Lineker “will stand down from presenting Match of the Day until we have an agreed and clear position on the use of social media”, adding that it believes his recent social media activity violates his instructions.

In response, first pundits, then commentators, and then even Premier League teams announced their intention to boycott the show in support of Lineker.

BBC commentators Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen and Steven Wyeth said in a joint statement issued late on Friday that “in the circumstances, we do not believe it would be appropriate to participate in the programme”.

Former England striker Jermain Defoe announced on Saturday that he will not appear as a pundit on Sunday’s show.

“It’s always a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I made the decision to resign from my duties. @GaryLineker”, Defoe he tweeted.

Defoe’s announcement appears to be the first sign that the British broadcaster’s Sunday TV schedule will also be affected.

Meanwhile, the Professional Footballers’ Association was announced on Saturday that “players involved in today’s matches will not be invited to take part in Match of the Day interviews”.

“The PFA has spoken to members who wanted to take a collective stand and be able to show their support for those who chose not to be part of tonight’s programme,” the statement added.

“During these talks we have made it clear that, as their union, we will support all members who may face consequences if they choose not to fulfill their broadcasting commitments. This is a common sense decision that ensures players are not now put in this position.”

After his side’s 1-0 defeat by Bournemouth on Saturday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was asked about the BBC issue.

“I can’t see any reason why they would ask anyone to back down to say that. I’m not sure if this is a language issue or not,” the German told reporters.

“If I understand it correctly, then this is a human rights point of view and that is what we could say.

“What I don’t understand is why everyone goes on Twitter and says something. I don’t get the social media part, but that’s probably it [because] I’m too old for that.”

Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke said the broadcaster had “undermined its own credibility” by suspending Lineker because he appeared to have “bowed to government pressure”.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said the BBC had “got this very wrong and now it is very, very exposed”.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon he tweeted: “As a staunch supporter of public broadcasting, I want to be able to defend the BBC. But the decision to remove Gary Lineker is unacceptable. It undermines free speech in the face of political pressure – and it always seems to be right-wing pressure that it bows to.”

Opposition Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner also criticized the BBC’s decision in a tweet on Saturday.

“The BBC’s cowardly decision to ax Gary Lineker is an attack on free speech in the face of political pressure from Tory politicians. They should reconsider,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Nadine Dorries, a ruling Conservative MP and former culture secretary, welcomed the BBC’s decision, tweeting: “The news that Gary Lineker has been referred for investigation is welcome and shows that the BBC is serious about impartiality.

“Gary is entitled to his views – freedom of speech is paramount. Many non-public broadcasters can accommodate him and his views and would be better paid.”

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