Why is Gary Lineker not on Match of the Day tonight? BBC presenter’s absence explained
BBC announced that Gary Lineker would not be presenting the show this weekend following a row over his criticism of the Government
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Gary Lineker will not be appearing on Match of the Day tonight despite resolving his recent row with the BBC.
The presenter, 62, was stood down by the broadcaster last week for a tweet comparing the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany, sparking a series of boycotts by pundits, hosts and commentators. The BBC’s sporting schedule was severely disrupted last week including both MOTD and MOTD2 airing with no commentary or analysis.
Ex-England striker Lineker said support from his colleagues has been “hugely gratifying” and “quite beautiful”. When asked by LaLiga Sports TV about how his week has been he said: “Really quiet. Nothing much going on. You could say it’s been an interesting week but I’m still here, still punching.
“It was interesting and also hugely gratifying, I had an amazing amount of support from my friends and colleagues which was quite beautiful actually. It was totally disproportionate the whole thing but we’re OK. It’s resolved, I’m relieved, I’m back to work tomorrow and all is well with the world.”
Lineker will make his return to BBC today (18 March) but will not be on MOTD. Here’s all you need to know:
Why is Gary Lineker not on Match of the Day?
The 62-year-old will present live BBC coverage of Burnley vs Manchester City in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. He wil be joined by Alan Shearer and Micah Richards who will provide analysis.
The game will kick off at 5.45pm - meaning they won’t have enough time to get back to the studio for MOTD. It will instead be presented by Mark Chapman, who usually fronts MOTD2 - but boycotted the show last week.
Why was there no commentary on Match of the Day last week?
If you tuned into MOTD last week have noticed that it is lacking any sound beyond the crowd noises. This is due to the broadcaster not having the rights to the Premier League’s global commentary feed, according to reports.
What has Gary Lineker said?
Gary Lineker believed he had a “special agreement” with the BBC director-general to tweet about refugees and immigration, his agent has said. Jon Holmes, who represents the Match Of The Day host, said the impartiality row resulting from Lineker’s recent online action had “collapsed into a shambles” despite his efforts to have everyone “calm down”.
In a statement issued on Twitter, Lineker described the past few days as “surreal”, adding he was “delighted we have navigated a way through this”. In a series of tweets, Lineker also appeared to address the issue of migration again, saying his difficult weekend “doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away”.
“We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you,” he added. In a follow-up tweet, Lineker thanked Mr Davie for his “understanding during a difficult period”.
The presenter said: “He has an almost impossible job keeping everybody happy, particularly in the area of impartiality. I am delighted that we’ll continue to fight the good fight, together.”
Since the row, Lineker has changed his Twitter profile picture to a photo of himself next to a George Orwell quote, which is written on the wall outside of the BBC. “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear,” the quote reads.
What has the BBC said?
Announcing the decision regarding Lineker last week, a spokesperson for the BBC said the broadcaster had 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”. They continued: “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.”
Earlier, BBC director-general Tim Davie – who warned staff about their use of social media when he took on the role at the end of 2020 before guidelines on their use were updated – was asked by BBC News why Lineker had not been sacked. Mr Davie replied: “Well I think we always look to take proportionate action and that’s what we’ve done.”
He said he would not “add to” the corporation’s current statement on the matter, but that there had been “very constructive discussions”. Reacting to Shearer and Wright’s boycott, the BBC boss added: “I absolutely respect people’s right to make that decision, and BBC Sport have to look at the programme they will produce for the weekend as normal.”
Mr Davie apologised for what he acknowledged had been “a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences” and described the BBC’s commitment to freedom of expression and impartiality as a “difficult balancing act”.
He added: “The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air.”
After the official BBC statement was published, Lineker tweeted that he was “delighted” to have navigated a way through the row after a “surreal few days”.
He added: “I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost three decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday.”