MUTINY AT BBC OVER LINEKER RED CARD
++ Bosses confirm his small boats Nazi tweet broke guidelines ++ He’ll ‘step back’ from Match of the Day ++ But co-stars Ian Wright and Alan Shearer boycott show in ‘solidarity’
GARY Lineker’s BBC career was hanging by a thread last night.
He has dramatically been dropped from Match of the day for his antiTory comments on social media. But the decision sparked a meltdown at the broadcaster when fellow hosts Alan Shearer and Ian Wright pulled out of tonight’s football show in solidarity.
BBC bosses had told Lineker either to stop his politicised posts or give up working for the corporation.
Last night a senior source said: ‘It’s now up to Lineker – he needs to choose.’ Another well-placed insider described the presenters’ mutiny as a ‘proper BBC crisis’.
Lineker is said to have been unwilling
to apologise for his tweet this week in which he likened the Government’s migrant crackdown to 1930s Germany.
The BBC said it had decided he would ‘step back’ from presenting Match of the Day ‘until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media’. It said it felt that the 62-year-old presenter – its highest-paid star on £1.35million a year – had broken rules with ‘his recent social media activity’.
But the statement came into question last night. Sources close to Lineker stressed he had not agreed to take a break from Match of the Day and was ‘taken off air’.
ITV political editor Robert Peston said the former England captain had also rejected ‘the idea that he breached social media guidelines’ – partly because this was not in his contract. Dan Walker of Channel 5 News read out a text from Lineker saying: ‘They’ve told me I have to step back.’
Wright was the first to say he would not appear on Match of the Day tonight in protest.
The former Arsenal and England striker posted: ‘Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.’
This was followed by an announcement from Shearer that he was also pulling out of BBC1’s flagship football show.
Former England player Alex Scott also appeared to rule herself out, tweeting a short video which showed US politician Bernie Sanders saying ‘Nah! Not me.’ Pundit Jermaine Jenas – regarded as an eventual successor to Lineker – said he was not due to be on tonight but would have boycotted the show.
BBC quiz presenter Richard Osman branded the decision to take Lineker off air ‘pathetic’.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also backed the hosts, tweeting: ‘Well done Gary Lineker for standing up for refugees. Well done Ian Wright for showing the meaning of solidarity.’ It is understood that some members of the Match of the Day production team have contacted their union to ask if they could legally go on strike in protest at Lineker’s treatment.
Philippa Childs, the head of broadcast union Bectu, which represents thousands of BBC staff, said: ‘This is a deeply concerning decision from the BBC. It will give the appearance they have bowed to political pressure from ministers to take someone off air for disagreeing with the policies of the current Government.’
On Tuesday Lineker said Suella Braverman’s Illegal Migration Bill was ‘beyond awful’.
He said it was an ‘immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s’. Lineker was then accused of ‘thumbing his nose’ at BBC bosses with further social media posts attacking the Government. The broadcaster spent days dithering before issuing its bombshell announcement at 5pm yesterday.
‘The BBC has been in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days,’ said a spokesman. ‘We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines.
‘The BBC has decided he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got 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 have never said that Gary should be an opinion-free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.’ Tory former culture secretary Nadine Dorries welcomed the decision to take Lineker off air.
She said: ‘News that Gary Lineker has been stood down for investigation is welcome and shows the BBC are serious about impartiality.
‘Gary is entitled to his views – free speech is paramount. Lots of nonpublic service broadcasters can accommodate him and his views and he would be better paid.’
Red Wall Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith said he did not want to silence opinion but added: ‘He’s clearly overstepped the mark here. What he said was grossly offensive and he doesn’t seem to be showing any contrition whatsoever.’
Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy said it was ‘hard to see Lineker coming back’ following the BBC’s decision.
A BBC spokesman added: ‘Some of our pundits have said that they don’t wish to appear on the programme while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary. We understand their position and we have decided that the programme will focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry.’
‘Serious about impartiality’
It HAS been a long and slightly painful process, but the BBC has finally taken action against Gary Lineker over his odious – and staggeringly ignorant – comparison between Rishi Sunak’s small boats crackdown and Germany under the Nazis in the 1930s.
When other staff are banned from publicly expressing their political views, it’s obviously right that the £1.35million man should not be allowed to return to the Match Of the Day chair until he promises to obey the rules too.
So full credit to director general tim Davie for getting it right in the end.
What happens next is anyone’s guess, with Lineker’s fellow presenters last night lining up to boycott the show in ‘solidarity’. But, before getting too carried away with their eagerness to virtue- signal, they should consider a few facts.
Firstly, it’s outrageous that Lineker should arrogantly assume the right to pontificate in public when other BBC presenters on much lower pay keep their own views private so as not to undermine the political impartiality which is part of the BBC’s charter.
Yes, he’s a football show host not a news reporter. But, as Lineker knows only too well, his name is synonymous with the corporation and anything he says to his eight million twitter followers inevitably reflects upon his employers.
Another fact is the hard reality that although Lineker and his co-hosts don’t like the Prime Minister’s policy, millions of ordinary voters – the same people who pay the licence fee to fund their fat salaries – do. More than 29,000 Mail+ readers have voted in a poll asking whether Lineker should be fired for his tweet – and 96 per cent said yes, he should.
the Mail has no time for cancel culture. But nor do we have any sympathy for a man who thinks a popular policy from a democratically elected party – one, remember, aimed at smashing the business model of people smugglers and saving lives – has any connection whatsoever with the monster who set out to annihilate the entire Jewish race.