BBC director-general Tim Davie has apologized for the ongoing uproar over football star-turned-sports pundit Gary Lineker but will not be stepping down.
Last Tuesday, Lineker tweeted the UK government’s controversial illegal migration law, describing it as “an immeasurably cruel policy targeting the most vulnerable, in language not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s”.
Lineker is a star presenter on the BBC’s Match of the Day football programme.
Lineker’s tweet sparked anger from the government and on Friday the BBC suspended him, saying: “The BBC have had extensive discussions with Gary and his team over the last few days. We have said that we consider his recent social media activity a violation of our policies. The BBC has decided that he will step down from presenting the Match of the Day until we have an agreed and clear position on his use of social media. When it comes to leading our football and sports coverage, Gary is second to none. We never said that Gary should be in a no-opinion zone or that he cannot have an opinion on issues important to him, but we did say that he should refrain from taking sides on partisan issues or political controversies. ”
Lineker stuck to his position and in solidarity his Match of the Day presenters Ian Wright and Alan Shearer refused to present the program. Alex Scott decided not to continue “Football Focus,” Jason Mohammad refused to present “Final Score,” and Radio 5 Live’s “Fighting Talk” was canceled because staff and host Colin Murray decided to boycott it.
The BBC apologized for the disruption to sports programming on Saturday, saying: “The BBC will only be able to offer limited sports programming this weekend and our timetables are being updated to reflect this. We apologize for these changes which we recognize will be disappointing for BBC sports fans. We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to be able to do so soon.”
The company’s apology was followed by one from the CEO. “I’m sorry that the audience has been affected and doesn’t have the programme,” Davie said in an interview with BBC News, adding: “We are working very hard to resolve the situation.” However, he said he will “No way” to resign, adding that it was a “rough time” for the BBC.
BBC chairman Richard Sharp was recently questioned by a UK parliamentary committee about his role in a 2020 loan to then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The committee found that Sharp had committed “significant errors of judgement”.