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BBC staff refuse to cover presenter’s exodus ‘for fear of looking like a scab’ on Gary Lineker’s row

Furious BBC staff are refusing to appear on the channel amid fears of being labeled ‘red’ amid the ongoing dispute over Gary Lineker’s suspension, internal sources have said.

The mood inside the Beeb is said to be riotous after the TV host was taken off the air by higher-ups for his criticism of the government’s plans to crack down on illegal immigration, and is threatening to spread to other departments, according to reports.

BBC staff and freelancers, including high-profile stars such as Mark Chapman, reportedly refused to step in for the Match of the Day presenter, with some within the corporation criticizing the “disgraceful cowardice of the leadership”.

It’s hit the lineup, with last night’s MOTD reduced to a 20-minute show with no commentary or analysis after pundits and microphones refused to appear in support of it, and the disruption will continue today, with coverage of the Women’s Super League and MOTD2 will be reduced.

It is believed the BBC could have to ‘pay millions’ if Lineker is sacked as they would lose any legal claim if they are sued, and his eldest son said last night the former England striker will never back down and apologize.

Gary Lineker was taken off the air by the BBC last week after criticizing the Government’s Small Craft Bill.

The dispute has threatened to engulf the corporation, and staff express their dissatisfaction with the decision.  CEO Tim Davie (pictured) apologized to viewers for the disruption caused

The dispute has threatened to engulf the corporation, and staff express their dissatisfaction with the decision. CEO Tim Davie (pictured) apologized to viewers for the disruption caused

The dispute that has engulfed the corporation threatens to boil over, with claims from people within the organization that it has become a channel for staff to vent their frustrations.

As shows like Match of the Day, MOTD2 and the Women’s Super League are affected by strikes, there have even been suggestions that if the queue is prolonged, the BBC could risk losing its broadcast rights to the Premier League.

Lineker was taken off the air last week after he criticized the government’s announcement of new laws to crack down on small boats crossing the English Channel.

The former England striker, who is often outspoken on his Twitter account, called the government’s bill “beyond horrible” and said the language used “wasn’t too dissimilar to what Germany used in the 1930s.”

Since then, he has refused to apologize for his comments, and Beeb’s bosses made the decision to prevent him from appearing on their regular Saturday night show, Match of the Day.

This has sparked fury within the organization and left higher-ups scrambling to respond after pundits, commentators and fellow presenters in their sports department left.

Pundits say the search for a replacement for last night’s Match of the Day was hampered by the outpouring of support for him, as the usual replacements refused to do so.

It came amid fears from some that they would be seen as a ‘red’ for doing so, with a source telling The Times: ‘If they weren’t wise enough to say no, their agents were.’

This refusal caused MOTD, which normally lasts at least an hour, to be shortened to just 20 minutes, with no in-studio commentary or analysis.

Well-known figures such as presenters Mark Chapman, Gabby Logan and Jason Mohammad are believed to have refused to appear in Lineker’s place or on his regular shows.

Meanwhile, former professional footballers like Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Alex Scott also refused to come forward in a show of solidarity.

However, the revolt appears to have been confined to the BBC’s football coverage, with Logan appearing on today’s schedule of the Six Nations match between Scotland and Ireland as scheduled.

Before commentary for the two scheduled Premier League games began this afternoon on Radio 5 Live, commentator Alistair Bruce-Ball said: “I want to reiterate what we said before our football coverage yesterday.

I know you will all appreciate that this is a difficult time for BBC Sport and everyone who works in the department, and we hope that everything will be resolved as soon as possible.

It has been a very difficult decision to make personally, I can assure you that it has not been taken lightly, but I am a member of staff at the BBC, I am a radio commentator for this station and, like yesterday, we are here to provide our football service to you, our audience.’

MOTD2 Host Mark Chapman

BBC sports presenter Gabby Logan

BBC presenters Mark Chapman (left) and Gabby Logan (right) refused to appear in Lineker’s place.

Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright

Former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer

Pundits Ian Wright (left) and Alan Shearer (right) refused to participate in Match of the Day when Lineker was taken off the air.

Final score presenter Jason Mohammad

Former footballer turned presenter Alex Scott

Fellow presenters Jason Mohammad (left) and Alex Scott (right) also refused to go on the air to show their support for Lineker.

Linker, pictured here on the set of Match of the Day, has refused to apologize for his criticism of the government.

Linker, pictured here on the set of Match of the Day, has refused to apologize for his criticism of the government.

It has since been confirmed that tonight’s MOTD2 will follow a similar format, after Chapman refused to appear, as did pundit Jermaine Defoe.

A correspondent told the publication it was “terrible” for the BBC, adding: ‘BBC Sport and Match of the Day are the jewels in its crown. There could be a risk of losing Premier League rights if this is not fixed quickly.

But how quickly this will be resolved remains to be seen, with Lineker refusing to apologize and CEO Tim Davie apparently unwilling to back down.

Unhappiness seems to be brewing within the organisation, with ‘Garygate’, as it has been dubbed, acting as a lightning rod for people to air their grievances with management.

Posts to the BBC’s Slack messaging system, which staff use to talk to each other, show irate staff harassing superiors over what they perceive to be “disgraceful cowardice”.

In a leaked message to The Times, one staff member wrote: ‘I’m starting to think there’s no point in working here anymore’, while another said: ‘Richard Sharp, all good; Gary Lineker denouncing racism and fascism: outrage’.

Another added scathingly: “Who has more integrity, a banana republic or the BBC?”

A radio presenter who asked to remain anonymous explained that the messages are an example of the “pent-up anger of an entire organization, channeled through this incident.”

Former BBC executive Peter Salmon, who was previously BBC One controller and sports director, said with Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday that the situation was “complex” and that Lineker is an “important figure”.

BBC staff have criticized what they see as the 'shameful cowardice' of the corporation's leadership.

BBC staff have criticized what they see as the ‘shameful cowardice’ of the corporation’s leadership.

Protesters gathered outside the BBC Sport studios in Salford's Media City on Saturday to show their support for Lineker.

Protesters gathered outside the BBC Sport studios in Salford’s Media City on Saturday to show their support for Lineker.

He added: ‘Twenty-five years on Match Of The Day – he’s more than just a TV presenter, he’s a national figure.

He has views, he has passions, he has been involved in caring for Ukrainian refugees. Gary may have outgrown the job and role at the BBC.

‘Twenty-five years on, before Des Lynam took over, Gary has been brilliant. Sometimes there is a point where you cross the line.

Reflecting on the interruption of the BBC sports programme, he added: ‘It’s a disaster, isn’t it?

They must be wishing they could go back 72 hours and start over. It is the day of the Oscars but there are no awards for how this has been managed.

“I think they have to take action pretty quickly. It doesn’t help that the BBC president himself has been sidelined in this process and there is a little problem.

‘Tim Davie is isolated in a way, he needs to come home and get this under control now. We need him back running the ship.

This morning, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said “people’s confidence” must be restored in knowing the BBC has “no political agenda” when asked about the Gary Lineker dispute.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge Sunday show: “I don’t agree with his comments and I personally think he was wrong to say what he said, but I don’t think it’s up to me to decide how that issue is resolved.” .’

“If you believe in the independence of the BBC, then it is not for the chancellor or any other government minister to say how these issues are resolved.”

Asked if the corporation’s leadership is too close to the ruling party, Hunt said it was not for him to “make those judgements”.

Former Conservative Chancellor George Osborne endorsed Gary Lineker and criticized rhetoric on asylum policy from some members of his party.

“I personally think that some of the language used by some conservatives on immigration, not all of it, is not acceptable,” he told Channel 4’s The Andrew Neil Show.

I have a lot of sympathy for Tim Davie, the CEO, who is trying to keep the BBC impartial in a partisan age. But it all ended in a little mess.

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