Gary Lineker could return to TV in a matter of days as BBC boss Tim Davie jets back from the US in an attempt to diffuse a row which has hit the corporation’s sports coverage this weekend.

Lineker was taken off air by bosses at the organisation on Friday after he criticised the Government’s anti-illegal immigration bill, sparking a walkout by his colleagues.

Presenters, pundits and commentators have refused to appear in an act of solidarity, causing Match of the Day, MOTD2 and Radio 5 Live’s Fighting Talk to be severely curtailed.

The former England striker has refused to apologise for his comments, but was uncharacteristically tight lipped this morning, telling reports he ‘can’t say anything’ about the situation that has threatened to engulf the BBC.

Last night its director-general Davie apologised to viewers for the impact it has had on scheduled programming, but denied he would resign and added he wanted to get Lineker back on air as soon as possible.

Gary Lineker, pictured here outside his south west London home this morning, could be back on TV as early as next week

Gary Lineker, pictured here outside his south west London home this morning, could be back on TV as early as next week

BBC director-general Tim Davie, pictured here in an interview with Nomia Iqbal, has denied he will resign over the row

BBC director-general Tim Davie, pictured here in an interview with Nomia Iqbal, has denied he will resign over the row

It has now been reported that talks between Lineker and the organisation are ‘moving quickly’, with Davie set to return to its base at Broadcasting House on Monday.

Davie had been in Washington DC, in the United States, when the row kicked off towards the end of last week, and is thought to have come back for crisis talks with one of his highest paid employees.

If things progress well, it has even been suggested that Lineker could be back on screens in time to front the BBC’s coverage of the FA Cup quarter finals next Saturday. 

An insider with knowledge of the talks told the Telegraph both Lineker and the BBC are keen to repair the relationship. 

‘Tim Davie has been clear that he wants to resolve the situation and see the MOTD presenter back on air,’ a source told the publication. 

‘Gary and his representatives have been in talks for a number of days and these are ongoing.’

On Friday night Davie said: ‘We are working very hard to resolve the situation and make sure we get output back on air. 

‘I don’t want to go into too much details about the discussion. Gary Lineker is a superb broadcaster, the best in the business, that’s not in debate. He is an outstanding broadcaster and success for me is Gary gets back on air.’

Earlier today Lineker refused to answer questions from journalists and photographers outside his home in south west London, s the row over comments he made about the Government’s anti-illegal immigration bill, continues to swirl.

His appearance comes after he was take off presenting duties for last night’s MOTD, with the show being severely curtailed to 20 minutes, with no analysis or commentary as pundits and play-by-play announcers refused to appear in solidarity with him.

Protestors gather outside the BBC's main sports studio in Salford to show support for Gary Lineker

Protestors gather outside the BBC’s main sports studio in Salford to show support for Gary Lineker

Match of the Day last night was cut to just 20 minutes in length as presenters, staff and commentators refused to come to work in support for Lineker

Match of the Day last night was cut to just 20 minutes in length as presenters, staff and commentators refused to come to work in support for Lineker

Lineker was spotted in public for the first time earlier today after Match of the Day aired without him last night

Lineker was spotted in public for the first time earlier today after Match of the Day aired without him last night 

Sports fans looking to watch football coverage on the licence payer-funded channel today saw their plans hit.

The Women’s Super League match was broadcast as scheduled on BBC1, but there was no pre-match or half-time coverage, and the commentary was taken from the WSL’s world feed rather than using the Beeb’s in-house audio team.

And tonight’s MOTD2 is also set to be hit, with host Mark Chapman and pundit Jermaine Defoe both refusing to take par.

Defoe tweeted: ‘It’s always such a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I have taken the decision to stand down from my punditry duties.’

Commentators for the show have also walked out, with veteran mic-man Guy Mowbray tweeting: ‘As yesterday, there will be no “normal” MOTD(2) programme tonight. The scheduled commentary team are in full agreement with our BBC Sport colleagues. We hope that a resolution can be found ASAP.’

However, there was no such disruption during the channel’s coverage of the Six Nations, with Gabby Logan anchoring today’s match between Scotland and Ireland as scheduled.

Before match commentary from its two scheduled Premier League games this afternoon started on Radio 5 Live, commentator Alistair Bruce-Ball said: ‘I want to reiterate what we said ahead of our football coverage yesterday.

‘I know you’ll all appreciate this is a difficult time for BBC Sport and for all those who work in the department, and we hope it all gets resolved as soon as possible.

‘It’s been a very difficult decision to make personally, I can assure you it’s not been taken lightly, but I’m a BBC staff member, I’m a radio commentator for this station and, just like yesterday, we are here to provide our football service to you, our audience.’

Lineker was forced off air this weekend over a tweet in which he compared the government’s latest stance on migrants to the language used in 1930s Germany.

The latest policy, which would see desperate people who cross on small boats banned from applying to reach the UK for life, has been widely condemned by human rights groups, with claims it could breach international law.

The BBC has strict impartiality rules for employees and freelance staff, including on social media, which new Director General Tim Davie is understood to have clamped down on.

But Lineker’s two-year contract was signed before Davie came to the helm, leaving the corporation unable to force him to comply with tougher standards, the Independent reports. 

Colleagues, including Mark Chapman (pictured), have refused to take part in Match of the Day and MOTD2 following Lineker's suspension

Colleagues, including Mark Chapman (pictured), have refused to take part in Match of the Day and MOTD2 following Lineker’s suspension 

When asked whether he would resign over the chaos, Davie apologised for disruption but refused to step down.

It comes after it was revealed BBC staff are fuming at how slowly the broadcaster is responding to the crisis, with its flagship sports show in tatters last night.

One BBC journalist said: ‘This is Armageddon – essentially an entire division of the BBC has gone on strike.’ 

Sporting heavyweights have already walked away from football programming across the BBC, but it is now reported that other sports staff members could follow suit.

BBC ‘needs to do better’ says Royal National Institute of Blind People, after vision-impaired viewers were left in the lurch

The Royal National Institute of Blind People has branded the BBC’s decision not to include commentary on Match Of The Day as ‘unacceptable’ and said the corporation ‘needs to do better’.

The football highlights show aired for only 20 minutes on Saturday without accompanying commentary or analysis from pundits following a boycott in ‘solidarity’ with former England player Gary Lineker.

In a tweet, the charity added: ‘The BBC should be upholding basic accessibility standards so that everyone can enjoy their output.’

A spokesperson for the BBC later said: ‘We apologise to those who couldn’t enjoy the programme as they normally would.

‘We have only been able to bring limited sport programming this weekend and we are working hard to resolve the situation.’

Former BBC executive Peter Salmon, who was previously controller of BBC One and director of sport, told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg the situation was ‘complex’ and Lineker is a ‘major figure’.

He added: ‘Twenty-five years in Match Of The Day – he’s more than just a TV presenter, he’s a national figure.

‘He’s got views, he’s got passions, he’s been involved in looking after Ukrainian refugees. It may be that Gary’s outgrown the job and the role in the BBC.

‘Twenty-five years in, before that Des Lynam, Gary took over, he’s been brilliant. Sometimes there’s a point at which you cross the line.’

Reflecting on the disruption to the BBC’s sports schedule, he added: ‘It’s a mess, isn’t it?

‘They must be wishing they could reel back 72 hours and start all over again. It’s Oscars day but there’s no awards for how this has been managed.

‘I think they’ve got to take action pretty quickly. It doesn’t help the chairman of the BBC himself is slacked to one side in this process and there’s a bit of an issue.

‘Tim Davie is isolated in some ways, he needs to come home and grip this now. We need him back running the ship.’

This morning Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said ‘people’s confidence’ should be restored in knowing the BBC has no ‘political agenda’ when he was asked about the Gary Lineker row.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: ‘I don’t agree with his comments and I personally think that he was wrong to say what he said, but I don’t think it’s for me to decide how that issue is resolved.’

‘If you believe in BBC independence, then it’s not for the chancellor or any other government minister to say how these issues are resolved.’

Former Tory chancellor George Osborne backed Gary Lineker, criticising the rhetoric around asylum policy by some in his party.

‘Personally I think some of the language used on immigration by some Conservatives – not all – is not acceptable,’ he told Channel 4’s The Andrew Neil Show.

‘I have a lot of sympathy for Tim Davie, the director-general, who’s trying to maintain impartiality for the BBC in a partisan age. But it’s all ended up in a bit of a mess.’

Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright

Former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer

Pundits such as Ian Wright (left) and Alan Shearer (right) have come out in support of Lineker this weekend

The BBC's coverage of the Women's Super League was hit by staff walkouts, as it had no pre or post-match analysis and was forced to rely on the world feed for commentary

The BBC’s coverage of the Women’s Super League was hit by staff walkouts, as it had no pre or post-match analysis and was forced to rely on the world feed for commentary 

Asked whether the corporation’s leadership is too close to the party of Government, Mr Hunt said it was not for him ‘to make those judgments’.

Ahead of last night’s MOTD starting, a continuity announcer said: ‘Now on BBC One, we’re sorry that we’re unable to show our normal Match Of The Day including commentary tonight. But here now is the best action from today’s Premier League matches.’ 

Match Of The Day lasted just 20 minutes following a day of chaos for the BBC as big-name stars walked out in protest alongside host Gary Lineker, leaving the broadcaster having to cancel most of its football coverage.

It was rebranded as ‘Premier League Highlights’ during its broadcast on Saturday evening.

After the shortened version of the usually two-to-three-hour-long programme, the BBC aired Sully, a film about the Hudson River plane crash.

The BBC’s Director-General refused to resign over the chaos caused after Gary Lineker was axed from Match Of The Day and said the football host is ‘the best’ and he wants him ‘back on air’.

Tim Davie apologised for the scheduling mayhem but said the corporation was ‘working very hard to resolve this situation’ and he would ‘absolutely not’ resign.

Davie (pictured here with Nomia Iqbal) previously said he wanted nothing more than for Lineker to return to the screen

Davie (pictured here with Nomia Iqbal) previously said he wanted nothing more than for Lineker to return to the screen 

Match of the Day, which is one of the most popular shows on the BBC, was aired for a shorter-than-usual 20 minutes on Saturday night

Match of the Day, which is one of the most popular shows on the BBC, was aired for a shorter-than-usual 20 minutes on Saturday night 

Davie told the BBC: ‘Gary Lineker is a superb broadcaster. He’s the best in the business. He’s an outstanding, brilliant broadcaster and success for me is that Gary gets back on air.’

Asked whether he should resign, Davie said: ‘Absolutely not. I think my job is to serve licence fee payers and deliver a BBC that is really focused on world class, impartial, landmark output.’ 

He added: ‘I’m sorry audiences have been affected and they haven’t got the programming. 

‘As a keen sports fan I know to miss programming is a real blow and I’m sorry about that. We are working very hard to resolve this situation and make sure we get output on air.

‘Everyone wants to calmly resolve the situation. Gary Lineker’s the best in the business – that’s not for debate.’

Mr Davie also said that he does not feel this is about ‘left or right’ politics, but about the corporation’s ability to balance free speech and impartiality, adding: ‘We’re fierce champions of democratic debate, free speech, but with that comes the need to create an impartial organisation.’

He was backed by former director-general Mark Thompson, who said he ‘absolutely hopes’ Davie will survive the ongoing row and that Lineker had ‘on the face of it’ committed a ‘technical breach’ of the BBC’s social media rules.

These state those working for the BBC outside of its news and factual departments still have an ‘additional responsibility’ given their profile. 

He added: ‘I think we have also got our old friend the grey area here. In other words, no-one thinks this is the same as you or Huw Edwards doing it. This is not like a news presenter basically tearing up the impartiality principles inside the news machine.’

Pressed on whether BBC chairman Richard Sharp, who has faced growing calls to resign over the cronyism row caused by him helping Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility, should temporarily step aside until the issue is resolved, Mr Thompson said: ‘Gary Lineker is an active broadcaster for the BBC. Richard Sharp is part of the governing body which doesn’t take decisions in real time about actual editorial matters.’

He said ‘the most sensible thing again is just calm down, ignore the papers and let the person who is doing the inquiry complete their inquiry’ instead of making decisions ‘on the fly’.

Asked whether he thought Lineker would be back on air tonight, he replied: ‘I hope so.’ 

Lineker, who is a Leicester City fan, was spotted at the club's King Power Stadium on Saturday, where he watched them fall to defeat against Chelsea

Lineker, who is a Leicester City fan, was spotted at the club’s King Power Stadium on Saturday, where he watched them fall to defeat against Chelsea

Some Leicester City fans held placards of support of Lineker before

Some Leicester City fans held placards of support of Lineker before  

But on Saturday Lineker’s son George said while his father may return to the flagship football programme, he would not apologise. 

Speaking to the Mirror, George, 31, said although his father had been ‘hurt’ by some of the reaction to his ‘Nazi’ jibe tweet against the government’s asylum policy, he ‘wouldn’t back down’. 

He told the Mirror: ‘Will he go back to Match of the Day? I think so – he loves Match of the Day. But he won’t ever back down on his word.’ 

He added: ‘Dad is a good human and I’m proud of him for standing by his word.

‘That’s why he was pulled off the show – because he wouldn’t apologise.’

George said his father would always speak for people without a voice and that refugee welfare was important to him.

Today he tweeted: ‘Proud of the old man after a busy few days.

‘The reaction of the public has been overwhelming. Thanks for the support.’

Former England footballer John Barnes has hit out at the corporation, saying it wants to ‘pick and choose’ when its presenters can be impartial. 

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Barnes said: ‘I don’t know when the BBC has ever been impartial but BBC reporting on the World Cup was anything but impartial.

‘So, it seems that they want to pick and choose when they want to be partial, criticising others or criticising other countries or other political parties or other religions seems to be okay.

‘But, of course, if you then criticise what goes on in this country, then it seems that they will then come up with the impartiality rule.’

Former England footballer John Barnes (pictured) has hit out at the corporation, saying it wants to 'pick and choose' when its presenters can be impartial

Former England footballer John Barnes (pictured) has hit out at the corporation, saying it wants to ‘pick and choose’ when its presenters can be impartial

Swansea City fans also held up a sign in support of the Match of the Day presenter during the Championship side's clash with Middlesbrough

Swansea City fans also held up a sign in support of the Match of the Day presenter during the Championship side’s clash with Middlesbrough

On Saturday, Football Focus and Final Score were hurriedly replaced by old episodes of Bargain Hunt and The Repair Shop after hosts Alex Scott, Kelly Somers, and Jason Mohammad all refused to take to the airwaves in solidarity with the former England star. 

Football Focus host Alex Scott Tweeted that broadcasting the show ‘just doesn’t feel right.’

She wrote: ‘I made a decision last night that even though I love doing football focus and we have had an incredible week winning an SJA award that it just doesn’t feel right going ahead with the show today. Hopefully I will be back in the chair next week…’

BBC Radio 5 Live’s schedule was also hit after football presenter Mark Chapman pulled out of broadcasting alongside Colin Murray, and pundit Dion Dublin, forcing the replacement of 5 Live Sport and Fighting Talk with old podcast episodes. 

Jermain Defoe, who was due to appear on Match of the Day 2 today, also tweeted: ‘It’s always such a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I have taken the decision to stand down from my punditry duties. @GaryLineker.’ 

In a statement, a BBC spokesperson said: ‘The BBC will only be able to bring limited sport programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that.

‘We are sorry for these changes which we recognise will be disappointing for BBC sport fans.

‘We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.’ 

To add to the turmoil, Ian Wright – who refused to appear on TV on Saturday – said: ‘If the BBC get rid of Gary Lineker, I’m out, I’m gone.’

It came as a YouGov snap poll revealed a majority (53 per cent) of the British public think the BBC was wrong to suspend Gary Lineker from Match of the Day following his comments on social media about the government’s asylum policy.

The data finds that just over a quarter (27 per cent) think the broadcaster was right to suspend him and a fifth (20 per cent) don’t know.

Labour (75 per cent) and Liberal Democrat (73 per cent) voters are most likely to think the BBC made the wrong decision compared to just over a third (36 per cent) of Conservatives. 

In comparison, half (51 per cent) of Tory voters believe the broadcaster made the right decision along with 10 per cent of Labour voters and 14 per cent of Liberal Democrats.

Lineker was spotted in the director's box as he watched Leicester fall to a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea at the King Power Stadium

Lineker was spotted in the director’s box as he watched Leicester fall to a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea at the King Power Stadium

Seeing red: Leicester City's Wout Faes was shown a red card by referee Andre Marriner during the defeat

Seeing red: Leicester City’s Wout Faes was shown a red card by referee Andre Marriner during the defeat

Instead of presenting MOTD, Lineker watched Leicester lose 3-1 to Chelsea on Saturday and was pictured taking photos with fans before the game.

Who is Gary Lineker’s former England teammate John Barnes?

Ex-England winger John Barnes has come out in full support of Gary Lineker after the MOTD host posted a controversial ‘Nazi’ jibe on Twitter.

Barnes was a teammate of Lineker’s at two world cups. His introduction to the 1986 World Cup was in the quarter final with 15 minutes to go, trailing 2–0 against Argentina.

He set up a goal for Lineker but England crashed out of the tournament.

Barnes was praised for his play and became a regular in the starting line up.

In 1990, during the lead up to the World Cup in Italy, Barnes played alongside Lineker as a forward.

He was injured after scoring a wrongly-disallowed volley against Belgium in the last sixteen stage.

On Saturday Barnes said Lineker was a ‘legend to so many’ but had people’s support over his tweet because ‘he’s right’. 

The beloved MOTD host has been backed by his fellow presenters and sports stars.

Speaking after his side’s 1-0 loss to Bournemouth, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: ‘I’m not native but I cannot see why you would ask someone to step back for saying that.

‘Everybody wants to be so concerned about doing things in the right manner, saying the right stuff.

‘If you don’t do that then you create a s***storm, it is a really difficult world to live in.

‘If I understand it right, it is a message, an opinion about human rights and that should be possible to say.’

Lineker’s England teammate at two world cups John Barnes accused the BBC of ‘playing into’ the government’s hands by making the story about their chaotic actions rather than the controversial immigration bill.

Writing in The Mirror, he said: ‘The Tories are quite happy for this distraction.

‘Gary is a football legend to so many. Most people are supporting him because he’s right.’

A leaked email sent to BBC staff has also surfaced on social media showing the Director of Sport Barbara Slater apologising to her team for the continuous chaos which has unravelled at the broadcaster this afternoon.

She thanked staff for their hard work and professionalism despite many boycotting their responsibilities this afternoon in solidarity with Lineker. 

Slater said that the BBC ‘understood how unsettling this is for all of you’.

The BBC has reportedly told staff there will be a series of meetings on Monday so they can ‘have their say’ about the fiasco. 

With no need to prepare for MOTD tonight, Lineker was free to head to the King Power Stadium this afternoon for the 3pm match between Leicester and Chelsea

With no need to prepare for MOTD tonight, Lineker was free to head to the King Power Stadium this afternoon for the 3pm match between Leicester and Chelsea

Jon Holmes (right), agent of Gary Lineker arrives at the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at the King Power Stadium this afternoon

Jon Holmes (right), agent of Gary Lineker arrives at the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at the King Power Stadium this afternoon

Gary Lineker was seen outside his London home this morning after fellow presenters and walked out of today's BBC's football coverage in a show of solidarity

Gary Lineker was seen outside his London home this morning after fellow presenters and walked out of today’s BBC’s football coverage in a show of solidarity

Confusion over what the BBC’s impartiality guidelines actually mean are thought to have been partly to blame for the chaos that has ensued since Lineker made his ‘Nazi’ jibe. 

BBC neutrality has come under recent scrutiny over revelations that its chairman, Richard Sharp – a Conservative Party donor – helped arrange a loan for then Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2021, weeks before Sharp was appointed to the BBC post on the government’s recommendation.



Source link

Pin It on Pinterest