Former England captain Gary Lineker has been temporarily sacked from his role as host of the BBC’s premier football show, Match of the Day, over his criticism of the UK government’s new policy on asylum seekers.
The BBC’s removal of Lineker from the show – a UK national institution that has been broadcast since the 1960s – marks an extraordinary development and was followed by a wave of public support for Lineker and a slew of his colleagues announcing not to act. the show without him.
In a Twitter message on Tuesday to his 8.7 million followers, Lineker – one of England’s greatest footballers and now one of the UK’s most influential media figures – said the language used by members of the UK government against asylum seekers similar to that used in Nazi Germany.
“The BBC has decided that he will take a step back from presenting ‘Match of the Day,'” the BBC said late Friday, “until we have an agreed and clear position on his use of social media”.
“We never said that Gary should be an opinion-free zone, or that he shouldn’t have an opinion on issues that are important to him, but we did say that he should steer clear of taking sides on partisan issues or political issues. ” controversies,” the BBC said.
Conservative Party MPs had called on the BBC to punish Lineker after he tweeted that the government’s plan to detain and deport asylum seekers arriving by boat was “an immeasurably brutal policy targeting the most vulnerable people in a language that does not differ much from the language used”. by Germany in the 1930s”.
“There is no large influx. We are taking in far fewer refugees than other major European countries,” he wrote.
There is no large inflow. We are taking in far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy targeting the most vulnerable in a language not unlike that of Germany in the 1930s, and I’m not okay?
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 7, 2023
The government called Lineker’s comparison to the Nazis inappropriate and unacceptable, while some MPs said he should be sacked.
Lineker has yet to make an official comment on his temporary layoff, although one of his former BBC colleagues – Dan Walker – said he had been in contact with Lineker asking him “whether he is stepping back or if the BBC has told him to to step up”. back”.
Walker said Lineker replied to him that the BBC was “telling me to step back”.
“So Gary Lineker wants to continue presenting ‘Match Of The Day’ and is not apologizing for what he has said,” Walker said on Channel 5, where he works, “but he has said it is a decision by the BBC to release him. force not to present the program at this time”.
In solidarity with Lineker’s position, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright – former England players who work as pundits on Match of the Day – said on Twitter that they will not appear on the schedule this weekend.
I have informed the BBC that I will not be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night.
— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) March 10, 2023
Everyone knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.
— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) March 10, 2023
The BBC said it considered Lineker’s “recent social media activity a breach of our guidelines”, adding that he should not take sides on political issues.
Funded by a license fee paid by all households with a television, the BBC has a duty to be impartial and news staff are barred from expressing political opinions.
But as a freelancer who doesn’t work in news or current affairs, Lineker isn’t bound by the same rules and often delves into politics and human rights issues with his tweets.
The BBC’s neutrality has recently come under scrutiny following revelations that its chairman, Richard Sharp – a donor to the Conservative Party – helped arrange a loan for then Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2021, weeks before, on the recommendation of the government to the BBC post.
Support for Lineker soared on social media on Friday evening and questions were raised about the BBC’s impartiality and lack of action against other figures who had taken public positions on political issues.
Best @BBC. In the interest of fairness, you might ask now @Lord_Sugar to step aside @bbcarentice . Otherwise, people may question whether you are really impartial @GaryLineker pic.twitter.com/GY2JurOiLy
— alan rusbridger (@arusbridger) March 10, 2023
“Stop the Boats”
The Conservative government has come under fire for its plans to ban asylum applications from people arriving by boat on Britain’s coast and transfer them elsewhere, such as Rwanda.
Human rights groups and the United Nations said the policy, referred to as “stop the boats”, would outlaw the UK internationally under European and UN conventions on the protection of asylum seekers.
The opposition Labor Party said the BBC’s removal of Gary Lineker from the air was an attack on freedom of expression under political pressure.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, called the BBC’s action “indefensible”.
After more of his colleagues such as former footballers Alex Scott, Jermaine Jenas and Micah Richards said they did not want to work on Match of the Day due to Lineker’s treatment, the BBC decided on the format of the show, which will air on Saturdays.
“Some of our experts have said they do not want to appear on the program while we try to resolve the situation with Gary,” the BBC said in its statement on Friday.
“We understand their point of view and we have decided that the program will focus on competition action without studio presentation or knowledge,” it said.
Lineker, 62, was a household name in the UK long before he became a smooth, expert presenter of sports shows on the BBC and other broadcasters. He was the top scorer at the 1986 World Cup and finished his international career with 48 goals in 80 appearances for England.
His club career included spells at Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Leicester.