Londoners react to BBC Lineker row

STORY: The BBC was forced to axe much of its football coverage on Saturday as presenters refused to work in a show of solidarity with Lineker.

Former England soccer captain Lineker, the BBC's highest paid presenter and the anchor of the football highlights program "Match of the Day," was taken off air by the broadcaster on Friday after he criticized Britain's migration policy earlier in the week.

"When you work for a public institution, they need to control their image. And it's hard to, I mean, differentiate between somebody's personal views and the corporation's views," said London resident Jean-Phillipe Syed.

Local man Cyril backed Lineker, saying: "I think he's entitled to his free speech, outside his job. And he didn't do it during the show."

The row has sparked a debate over freedom of speech and the BBC's neutrality and risks pulling the government into a dispute with one of the country's highest profile and most popular sports presenters.

The BBC said Saturday's edition of "Match of the Day" would "focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry."