The soccer coverage for the upcoming weekend has been disrupted as Gary Lineker announced that he would be stepping back from his presenting duties due to an impartiality row. This came after Lineker received backlash for criticizing British government policy on Twitter.
Due to the controversy, the broadcaster is now confronting a boycott of its premier soccer program “Match of the Day” by presenters, pundits, and even players. Additionally, the BNN news highlights other soccer programs like “Football Focus” and “Final Score,” along with some radio programming, have been suspended.
Following Lineker’s criticism of the British government’s new asylum-seeker policy on Tuesday, the BBC relieved him of his presenting duties this week, citing a breach of their guidelines, specifically their commitment to “due impartiality.”
According to a BBC spokeswoman who spoke on Saturday, the network’s programming schedule will be changed to reflect the reduced amount of sports programming this weekend.
He further added that the team apologizes for the inconvenience caused to BBC sports fans due to these changes. They understand that it may be disappointing. However, the team is actively working towards a resolution and expects to resolve the situation soon.
On Saturday, during an interview with BBC News, the Director General of the broadcaster, Tim Davie, was asked if he would resign in light of the crisis. He responded by saying that he had no intention of doing so.”
When questioned about his handling of the situation, he responded, “We made decisions, and I made decisions based on a deep commitment to what the BBC represents. It’s a challenging balance between freedom of expression and impartiality.”
On Tuesday, Lineker took to Twitter to express his opinion on the British Home Office’s announcement of a new proposed policy aimed at preventing migrant boats from crossing the English Channel from France. The video was criticized by various global organizations, including the United Nations.
According to him, there isn’t a big influx of refugees into the country, despite what the public perception would have you believe. Compared to other major European countries, we accept far fewer refugees. The proposed policy is exceptionally cruel towards the most vulnerable individuals and is reminiscent of the language used by Germany during the 1930s. And I am being criticized for speaking out?”
A joint statement by BBC commentators
A joint statement was released on Friday by BBC commentators Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen, and Steven Wyeth, stating that, given the circumstances, they believed it would be inappropriate for them to participate in the program.
Additionally, on Saturday, former England striker Jermain Defoe declared that he would not be participating in the Sunday show as a pundit.
On Saturday, the Professional Footballers’ Association announced that players who participated in the day’s games would not be required to participate in interviews with Match of the Day.
In the meantime, Nadine Dorries, a former Culture Secretary, and MP with the governing Conservative party expressed her support for the BBC’s decision. The news that Gary Lineker has been suspended pending an investigation, she wrote in a tweet, “is positive and shows the BBC takes impartiality seriously.”
Expressing his opinion, someone stated, “Gary has the right to express his opinions, and freedom of speech is crucial. Various non-public service broadcasters could cater to his views, and he would be better compensated there.”
On Saturday, the BNN news lighted a statement released by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, stating that while he hopes the issue between the BBC and its prominent football host can be resolved, it is not a matter for the UK government to intervene.