Match Of The Day will go ahead without a presenter, pundits and several regular commentators, following the fallout over Gary Lineker’s removal from the BBC show.
Former England footballers and MOTD regulars including Alan Shearer and Ian Wright previously announced they would be boycotting the show, in solidarity with Lineker. Late on Friday (10 evening several of the show’s commentators shared a joint statement online, announcing they would also be stepping down from Saturday’s broadcast.
The statement read: “As commentators on MOTD, we have decided to step down from tomorrow night’s broadcast. We are comforted that football fans who want to watch their teams should still be able to do so, as management can use World Feed commentary if they wish. However, in the circumstances, we do not feel it would be appropriate to take part in the programme.”
The statement was shared by MOTD commentators including Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen and Steven Wyeth.
It comes after it was reported that MOTD host Lineker will “step back” from presenting the show until he and the BBC have reached an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media, the broadcaster said.
Ian Wright later announced that he will not be taking part in the show on in “solidarity” with Lineker. He wrote: “Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.”
Alan Shearer also confirmed that he would not appear on the show this weekend in support for Lineker. He tweeted: “I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night.”
Former footballer and BBC presenter Jermaine Jenas also said he is standing “with his fellow pundits and Gary Lineker”. He tweeted: “Been on air with the One Show. I wasn’t down to be doing match of the day tomorrow, but if I was I would of said no and stood with my fellow pundits and @GaryLineker.”
What has the BBC said?
A BBC spokesperson said: “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.”
Lineker has been embroiled in a row over impartiality after comparing the language used to launch a new Government asylum policy with 1930s Germany earlier this week. He has faced criticism from Conservative MPs over the comments, however Sir Keir Starmer accused ministers of just looking to pass the “blame”.
Lineker’s remarks on Tuesday (7 March) came in response to a Home Office video on Twitter in which the Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the Government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats and said the UK is being “overwhelmed”. He wrote: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”
TalkTV host Piers Morgan defended the ex-England striker saying the remarks were “clearly incendiary” but that his opinions “should not matter to the BBC’s news output”. Morgan and Lineker are known to have clashed online multiple times previously on various issues.
Downing Street has hit back at Lineker and Braverman accused him of diminishing the tragedy of the Holocaust in response to the tweets.
Lineker to ‘step back’ from Match of the Day
Earlier, the BBC released a statement saying that Lineker would "step back" from the show.
A BBC spokesperson said: “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.”
What has the reaction been?
The BBC has faced criticism following the news that Lineker would not be presenting Match of the Day this weekend. Ian Wright announced that he would not appear on the programme in “solidarity”.
Gary Neville, Sky Sports presenter, tweeted: “When you take on the Tories and the system! Awful people who we need gone. Off for a (wine emoji).”
ITV’s Robert Peston reports that a Labour source said: “The BBC’s cowardly decision to take Gary Lineker off air is an assault on free speech in the face of political pressure. Tory politicians lobbying to get people sacked for disagreeing with Government policies should be laughed at, not pandered to. BBC should rethink.”
Who will be on Match of the Day this weekend?
After speculation that Match of the Day 2 host Mark Chapman or BBC pundit Alex Scott could step in, the rumour mill ended with the BBC statement that MOTD would have no presenter or pundits.