Match of the Day, the BBC’s renowned Premier League highlights program, will air without a studio host or its regular lineup of analysts after lead presenter Gary Lineker was ordered to withdraw from coverage after violating the network’s impartiality policies on Twitter.
After “long discussions” with Lineker, during which the sportscaster was informed that his tweet equating UK government policies with Nazi Germany was unacceptable, the BBC made the decision to remove Lineker from the well-liked highlights program on Friday afternoon.
Piers Morgan Slams BBC’s Suspension of Gary Lineker as “Pathetically Spineless”
Piers Morgan has defended Gary Lineker for airing his political views on Twitter, saying it shouldn't matter because he's not a news presenter.— Piers Morgan Uncensored (@PiersUncensored) March 8, 2023
"His eight-and-a-half followers want to know what he thinks about stuff."@piersmorgan | @GaryLineker | @TalkTV | #PMU pic.twitter.com/ws1N6CEekz
A number of the show’s regular contributors responded by announcing they would not be on it this weekend, including former soccer stars Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, and Alex Scott. The BBC issued a statement announcing that this week’s program of Match of the Day would air without its customary studio portion due to an effective presenters strike. Only Premier League game footage will be shown in this episode.
According to a BBC statement, “several of our pundits have stated that they do not desire to appear on the program while we work to resolve the matter with Gary. We have agreed that the program will concentrate on match action without studio presentation or punditry because we understand their viewpoint.
Lineker blasted the British government’s “beyond horrible” strategy of preventing small boats carrying asylum seekers from reaching British beaches in the now-discredited Tweet.
We accept significantly fewer refugees than other big European nations, said Lineker. This approach, which is intended against those who are most at risk, is enormously cruel, and it uses rhetoric reminiscent of that of Germany in the 1930s.
The BBC announced earlier on Friday that Lineker would take a break while it figured out how to allow the broadcaster to express his opinions on social media while still upholding the corporation’s obligation to objectivity. Despite Lineker having informed his 8.7 million Twitter followers on Thursday that he will be anchoring Match of the Day as usual on Saturday, the news nevertheless emerged. Lineker has defended his initial tweets on numerous occasions.
Insiders at the BBC were outraged with Lineker, according to a Deadline report from earlier this week, for his “egregious” violation of the impartiality standards. Some demanded his suspension.
The BBC has been under fire over Lineker’s suspension from all political corners. The BBC’s decision, according to the opposition Labour party, was “cowardly” and a “attack on free expression in the face of political pressure,” they claimed on Friday.
The suspension of Lineker, according to the broadcasting union BECTU, was “very disturbing” late on Friday night.
The head of BECTU, Philippa Childs, issued the following statement: “This is a highly disturbing decision by the BBC. Taking someone off the air for opposing the present government’s policies will convey the impression that they have given in to political pressure from ministers.
“When combined with the ongoing controversy over the appointment of the BBC Chairman, who has a much more significant role in maintaining the BBC’s reputation and who has not resigned while under investigation, it also runs the risk of appearing to apply different standards to these issues,” the author writes.