Gary Lineker: BBC director-general’s first words since suspension row

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Tim Davie has said he will not resign over the Gary Lineker row

The BBC director-general has apologised for the disruption caused to the broadcaster’s sports programming, but confirmed he will not resign over the Gary Lineker impartiality row.

Speaking to BBC News on Saturday (11 March), Tim Davie praised Lineker as “the best in the business” and said he wants to find a “reasonable solution” to get him back on the air. The ex-England striker was told to step back from hosting Saturday’s Match Of The Day after he compared the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany in a tweet.

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The broadcaster previously said it had “decided” the former England player would take a break from presenting the football highlights show until an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media had been reached. It sparked a backlash which resulted in major chaos with the BBC’s sport coverage over the weekend.

Match of the Day will be just 20 minutes long on Saturday night with no presenter or pundits offering analysis of the games. Football Focus and Final Score were scrapped earlier after the hosts declined to take part.

What did BBC director-general say?

BBC Director General Tim Davie. Picture: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty ImagesBBC Director General Tim Davie. Picture: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
BBC Director General Tim Davie. Picture: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images | OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking to BBC News in Washington, DC, Mr Davie said: “I’m very sorry for the disruption today. It’s been a difficult day and I’m sorry that audiences have been affected and they haven’t got the programming. As a keen sports fan, I know like everyone that to miss programming is a real blow and I am sorry about that.

“We are working very hard to resolve the situation and make sure that we get output back on air.” The director-general said that he would not go into too much detail about the discussions being had, but that “everyone wants to calmly resolve the situation”.

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“I would say Gary Lineker is a superb broadcaster. He’s the best in the business, that’s not for debate,” he added. “To be clear, success for me is: Gary gets back on air and together we are giving to the audiences that world-class sports coverage which, as I say, I’m sorry we haven’t been able to deliver today.”

Mr Davie also said that he does not feel this is about “left or right” politics, but about the corporation’s ability to balance free speech and impartiality, adding: “We’re fierce champions of democratic debate, free speech, but with that comes the need to create an impartial organisation.”

Asked if he would resign as “there are many people in the UK that simply do not trust you”, Mr Davie said: “Absolutely not. I think my job is to serve licence fee payers and deliver a BBC that is really focused on world-class, impartial landmark output – and I look forward to resolving this situation and looking forward to delivering that.”

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