BBC director general Tim Davie has apologized over the ongoing fracas around star soccer player turned sports pundit Gary Lineker, but will not resign.
Last Tuesday, Lineker, commenting on the U.K. government’s controversial Illegal Migration Bill, tweeted, describing it as 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 is a star presenter on the BBC’s “Match of the Day” soccer program.
Lineker’s tweet raised government hackles and on Friday, the BBC suspended him, saying: “The BBC has been in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days. We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines. The BBC has decided that 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.”
Lineker stuck to his position and in solidarity his fellow “Match of the Day Presenters” Ian Wright and Alan Shearer refused to present the program. Alex Scott decided not to go ahead with “Football Focus,” Jason Mohammad refused to present “Final Score” and Radio 5 Live’s “Fighting Talk” was canceled with the staff and host Colin Murray deciding to boycott it.
The BBC apologized for the disruption of sports programming on Saturday, saying, “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.”
The corporation’s apology was followed by one from its director general. “I’m sorry audiences have been affected, and they haven’t got the programming,” Davie said in an interview with BBC News, adding, “We are working very hard to resolve the situation.” However, he said he would “absolutely not” resign, adding that it is a “tough time” for the BBC.
BBC chair Richard Sharp was recently questioned by a U.K. parliamentary committee over his role in a 2020 loan to then Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The committee found that Sharp had committed “significant errors of judgement.”