Gary Lineker is BACK! Match of the Day host to return following backlash with BBC set to allow him to tweet without restrictions
- Ex-England striker caught up in social media storm
- Was removed from popular highlights programme
- A number of colleagues put on a united front
WHAT HAPPENED? The former England international found himself caught up in a social media storm after comparing language used in the British government’s asylum policy to that which could be found in 1930s Germany. He was ordered by the BBC to apologise for his actions, and was stood down from presenting duties after refusing to do so. A show of unity from Lineker’s fellow presenters delivered an unprecedented wave of walkouts and there was no commentary or punditry on offer across the BBC’s weekend football coverage.
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WHAT THEY SAID: A statement from Director-General of the BBC, Tim Davie, regarding Lineker’s return to screens and a review of social media policy reads: “Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences. I apologise for this. The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air. Impartiality is important to the BBC. 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. The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate.
“Accordingly, we are announcing a review led by an independent expert – reporting to the BBC – on its existing social media guidance, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs. The BBC and myself are aware that Gary is in favour of such a review. Shortly, the BBC will announce who will conduct that review. Whilst this work is undertaken, the BBC’s current social media guidance remains in place. Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Lineker, who found support from the likes of Alan Shearer and Ian Wright after it emerged that he would not be hosting MOTD on Saturday night, added: "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."
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WHAT NEXT? Lineker took over from Des Lynam as presenter of Match of the Day in 1999, making him the longest-serving host in the programme’s history, and has also fronted World Cup and FA Cup coverage from the BBC. In his playing days, the prolific frontman registered 48 goals for England helped Tottenham to FA Cup glory in 1991.