The BBC’s Premier League production is in freefall as presenters and pundits clash over Gary Lineker’s suspension.
The British broadcaster took the unprecedented step of standing Lineker down on Friday afternoon over a politically charged tweet, but the decision backfired spectacularly.
Within hours on Saturday, the BBC’s television and radio output was wired up, as several stars showed their solidarity for Lineker by refusing to work. Here’s what happened:
- shows BBC1 football focus And final score is replaced by repetition of bargain hunting And repair shop after hosts Alex Scott and Jason Mohammed joined in the protest.
- As of midday UK time on Saturday, the BBC was planning to air the flagship Premier League highlights show match of the Day Without presenters, pundits and commentators, but insiders think it could fall fast. “I can’t see how it will be able to go out tonight,” said one.
- BBC Radio 5 Live’s schedule was scrapped as live sport coverage was replaced by podcast repeats. Colin Murray and Mark Chapman were among the presenters who were not on the show.
- Premier League players will not give BBC interviews on Saturday as they signal they want to boycott match of the Day In support of Lineker.
- Lineker has yet to comment on his suspension. He was filmed leaving his home on Saturday but only saluted the press men camped outside his property.
- A petition demanding Lineker be reinstated by the BBC has received over 150,000 signatures.
The events are unprecedented and unsettling, stemming from a tweet in which Lineker compared government rhetoric on asylum seekers to that of Nazi Germany.
The BBC said the tweet broke social media rules on fairness, but sources close to Lineker, the corporation’s highest-paid presenter, said he stood by the accuracy of the post and would not apologise.
BBC journalists are held to a higher standard of fairness than non-news presenters such as Lineker, although all have been told that their social media activity “may affect the BBC’s perception of fairness.”
Lineker was deemed to have breached BBC impartiality rules last October after tweeting his views on the Conservative Party accepting donations from Russia. The BBC said Lineker had “extra responsibility” because of his high profile and reminded him that staff “should avoid taking sides on party political issues or political disputes.”
Announcing Lineker’s suspension on Friday, the BBC said: “The BBC has been having extensive discussions with Gary and his team over the recent past. We have stated that we consider his recent social media activity to be in breach of our guidelines.
“The BBC has decided that it will withdraw from presenting Match of the Day until we have achieved an agreed and clear position on the 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 cannot weigh in on issues that matter to him. matters, but we have said that he should refrain from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.”
BBC presenters, pundits and commentators who walked out:
Alan ShearerBBC’s top football pundit and former Newcastle United striker
Ian WrightFormer Arsenal player match of the Day Regular
Jermaine JanusThe former Spurs player is a presenter and pundit
Alex Scott, football focus Host and former Arsenal player
Mark Chapman anchors live sports coverage on 5 Live and Presents second day match
colin murrayPresents point of battle on BBC Radio 5 Live
Dion DublinFormer Manchester United players and 5 Live regulars
jason mohamedPresents final score for BBC1
Micah RichardsFormer Manchester City defender and one of the BBC’s top football pundits
Glen Murrayformer supporter is a football focus Pandit and 5 remain regulars
Kelly Somersfootball presenter and journalist
steve wilsonOne of the BBC’s top football commentators