Why Gary Lineker won’t be on Match of the Day tonight
Match of the Day viewers hoping to see Gary Lineker back at the helm of the Saturday night highlights programme will be kept waiting a little longer, following the BBC row over his criticism of government policy on asylum-seekers.
BBC sports programming fell into crisis last weekend after the presenter of 24 years was asked to step back from Match of the Day, prompting his fellow presenters, pundits and commentators to withdraw their own labour in solidarity.
But despite Lineker’s reinstatement on Monday, the star presenter will not be hosting the highlights show on Saturday night.
However, viewers will be relieved to learn that Lineker’s absence is unrelated to the recent dispute with BBC bosses – and he will still be appearing on BBC One on Saturday afternoon.
The former England player had always been scheduled to instead take part in the BBC’s Match of the Day Live FA Cup coverage of Saturday’s quarter-final clash between Manchester City and Burnley.
Lineker will be joined in the BBC studio at the Etihad Stadium by Micah Richards and Alan Shearer from 5:25pm on Saturday.
Presenter Mark Chapman will instead bring the Match of the Day highlights at 10:30pm on Saturday, doing so alongside former Wales player Ashley Williams.
Reinstating Lineker on Monday, the BBC’s director-general Tim Davie apologised for the disruption caused by the row and said he recognised “the potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance”.
He said the presenter “will abide by the editorial guidelines” until an independent review of the BBC’s social media policy is complete.
While Lineker, a freelancer, is not bound by the same impartiality rules as staff journalists, BBC guidance states that its high-profile stars are expected “to avoid taking sides on party-political issues”.
The row was sparked after he described a Home Office video of Suella Braverman introducing the government’s new bill – which would ban people who arrive in Britain in small boats from ever claiming asylum in the UK – as “beyond awful”.
“There is no huge influx,” Lineker wrote on Twitter. “We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”
His remarks came as the home secretary – who has previously warned of “an invasion” on the south coast – was heavily criticised over her “inflammatory” claim in parliament that 100 million potential refugees “are coming here” – despite just 89,000 people making asylum claims last year.
In a series of tweets on Monday, Lineker said: “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.”