Gary Lineker looks disappointed while holding a BBC Sport microphone

The BBC Massively Fumbled This Gary Lineker Mess

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have seen the massive fallout from former footballer Gary Lineker’s tweet last week and all of the drama it caused. However, if you somehow missed it, then we’re here to give you a rundown.

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Gary Lineker compared UK government policy language to 1930s Germany

On Tuesday (March 7) the Match of the Day presenter quoted a tweet from the UK government’s Home Office account, where they shared a video about their new, controversial immigrant policies.

A now-deleted tweet by another user said that Gary’s comment was “out of order” and stated “easy to pontificate when it doesn’t affect you”.

In response, he 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, and I’m out of order?”

The 62-year-old received a lot of praise and support after his tweet, and the next day said that he’d never had anything like it “in my life”. He said that he would “continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice.”

BBC says Gary will step back from presenting Match of the Day

In a statement a few days later, the broadcaster said that due to his comments, Gary would be stepping back from his role until further notice.

In a statement, it said that though they didn’t believe he should be an opinion-free person, he should “keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies”.

“We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines,” the BBC explained. “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.”

They continued: “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.”

Outpouring of support from fellow celebrities

After he was told he couldn’t present the football fan favorite, many famous faces came to his defense.

Former Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan, who himself has made many controversial comments over the years, wrote on Twitter: “Gary didn’t say any of it on the BBC, and isn’t even a BBC employee … I didn’t agree with what he said, but so what? It’s HIS opinion.”

Gary acknowledged his tweet, writing “I’m doooooomed” with a laughing face emoji.

Former Countdown presenter Carol Vordermon, who often speaks out on political issues, wrote: “I’m at BBC HQ in London where there is a statue of George Orwell and his words “If Liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. @GaryLineker⁩ #IStandWithGary”.

DJ FatboySlim also showed his support for the ex-footballer by displaying a video of him on screen during a concert in Manchester on Friday (March 10).

Later he shared a clip of the stint writing, “Enough Respect. I’m With Gary.”

A picket line forms on Match of the Day

After the BBC dismissed Gary for the foreseeable future, his colleagues said that they would not be presenting on the show. These included Ian Wright, Alex Scott, and Alan Shearer, who all tweeted their solidarity with Gary.

Alex shared a tweet saying “FYI…” with a gif of someone saying, “Nah, not me” before tweeting that she also wouldn’t present Football Focus, which was inevitably removed from the broadcaster’s schedule.

Ian Wright wrote a heartfelt message to the show’s fans saying, “Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.”

Alan Shearer tweeted simply, “I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night.”

Match of the Day commentators also boycotted that week’s broadcast, meaning that the program’s only noise was that of cheering fans with footage from highlights of that week’s matches, and the episode only lasted for 20 minutes despite Match of the Day usually airing for up to nearly two hours.

Premiere league players also refused to speak to BBC reporters at games which the Professional Football Association supported. In a statement, they said: “We have been informed that players involved in today’s games will not be asked to participate in interviews with Match of the Day.

“The PFA have been speaking to members who wanted to take a collective position and to be able to show their support for those who have chosen not to be part of tonight’s programme.”

They continued saying that they made it clear to players during talks that they would support their decisions: “During those conversations, we made clear that, as their union, we would support all members who might face consequences for choosing not to complete their broadcast commitments.

“This is a common sense decision that ensures players won’t now be put in that position.”

The BBC has now apologized

After a week of turmoil for the broadcaster, they have now said that the 62-year-old will return to presenting the program and have apologized to him.

In a statement released today (March 13) the BBC’s Director General Tim Davie apologized for “a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences” saying that he “want[s] to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air.”

“Impartiality is important to the BBC,” he continued. “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.”

Davie concluded by saying that an impartial review was scheduled to look into the BBC’s social media guidelines and ended the statement by saying that Gary was a “valued member of the BBC.”

Gary has tweeted his thanks to everyone who supported him in the last week. He said, “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.”

He also tweeted his gratitude to Tim Davie. “I’d like to thank Tim Davie for his understanding during this difficult period. He has an almost impossible job keeping everybody happy, particularly in the area of impartiality. I am delighted that we’ll continue to fight the good fight, together.”

(featured image: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)


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Author
Brooke Pollock
Brooke Pollock is a UK-based entertainment journalist who talks incessantly about her thoughts on pop culture. She can often be found with her headphones on listening to an array of music, scrolling through social media, at the cinema with a large popcorn, or laying in bed as she binges the latest TV releases. She has almost a year of experience and her core beat is digital culture.