Manager Tim Davie expresses his regrets after disrupting Gary Lineker’s sports programme
Tim Davie, to payers of television fees in Britain, a day after the suspension of the sports program “Match of the Day” (Match of the Day) presented by Gary Lineker, amid criticism of the “credibility” of the institution.
Football shows were suspended at the last minute, on Saturday, after broadcasters and commentators withdrew in support of Lineker.
The program was also reduced to 20 minutes without a presenter, and the program was broadcast on BBC One on Saturday evening without comment, and analysts Alan Shearer and Ian Wright did not appear.
Lineker was suspended after criticizing the government’s controversial asylum policy, but Davey denied the government pressured him to take the step.
The program was also broadcast without its musical introduction and the opening theme song, and it began reading graphics for “Premier League Highlights” before showing clips from the Bournemouth match against Liverpool, and the voice of the fans replaced the usual commentary.
Davey admitted it had been a “difficult day” for the BBC, but stressed that “we are working very hard to resolve the situation”.
“Success for me is to bring Gary back to live broadcasting, and together we give fans world-class sports coverage, as I say, I’m sorry we couldn’t do it today,”
Davey said in an interview with the BBC.Davey said he would “absolutely not resign” – stressing there was no favoritism towards any political party, amid accusations from opposition parties that BBC executives bowed to pressure from the prime minister and ministers over a tweet critical of the government.
Davey said Lineker had been asked to “step back” after “getting involved in partisan politics”. He added that he was ready to review the rules of impartiality for freelancers such as Lineker.
Lineker’s son George was quoted in the Sunday Mirror as saying he thought his father would return to present the programme. Despite this, George said, “He (Lineker) will never go back on his word.”
Lineker commented on the illegal immigration bill on Tuesday, describing it as “a cruel policy beyond any measure, targeting the most vulnerable with language not unlike that used by Germany in the 1930s.”
His comment on Friday sparked a broader debate about the BBC’s impartiality, the government’s asylum policy, and the position of the foundation’s chairman, Richard Sharpe.
It also led to an unprecedented day of turbulence in the BBC’s sports coverage, with a staff including some of the most recognizable faces and voices.
On a day when football programs were supposed to be shown from morning to evening on TV and radio, the BBC had to rebroadcast programs or run podcasts on Radio 5 Live to fill the gaps on air.
Coverage of football was scheduled to air at noon, but was canceled when presenter Alex Scott, an hour and a half before the show was due to start, tweeted that it “didn’t seem appropriate to go ahead with the show today”.
The “Final Score” broadcast was also canceled when presenter Jason Muhammad told the BBC that he refused to submit.
Radio 5 Live’s regular morning show “Fighting Talk” was canceled when staff interrupted it, with presenter Colin Murray saying the decision was “made by everyone – the team and me”.
Fans watching the afternoons on TV had only reruns of “Bargain Hunt” and “The Repair Shop”. At one point, Live 5 resorted to replaying old pre-recorded material.
There are major questions surrounding Sunday’s planned coverage, and whether the BBC can show Match of the Day 2 with Mark Chapman on TV. The presenter was absent from the radio broadcast on Saturday.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described Lineker as a “talented presenter” in a statement on Saturday night, but added that the dispute was not within the government’s purview.
As prime minister, I have to do what I think is right, while respecting the opinions of everyone who will not always agree. That is why I have been frank in my approach to stopping the boats,” he said.
Gary Lineker was a fantastic footballer and a talented broadcaster. I hope the current issue between Gary Lineker and the BBC will be resolved in due course, but it’s really up to them, not the government.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that “individual cases are the BBC’s purview”.
Senior Labor politicians have expressed their support for Lineker, including Keir Starmer. He said the government should focus on reforming the asylum system rather than “groaning” about Lineker, and accused BBC bosses of caving in to pressure from ministers.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has called on BBC chief Richard Sharpe to step down, saying the row exposed “failures at the top” of the organisation.
“We need leadership at the BBC that upholds our proud British values, and can stand up to the ever-turbulent politics and bullying of the Tories.”
Earlier on Saturday, Greg Dyke, who served as director general between 2000 and 2004, said the BBC had “undermined its credibility” over its handling of the row.
Lineker has presented Match of the Day since 1999 and is the highest-paid star on the BBC, earning around £1.35m in 2020-21. Lineker works for the BBC as a freelancer.
BBC staff are expected to remain politically neutral and must follow strict social media guidelines, but there is significant debate about how this applies to staff outside the news.