BBC sports show in chaos as Lineker pulled off air in asylum row

The BBC’s sports service suffered a meltdown on Saturday after pundits and commentators refused to back presenter Gary Lineker, who was forced to “step down” after accusing the government of using Nazi-era rhetoric.

Match of the Day host Lineker, England’s fourth-highest goalscorer, sparked an impartiality row by criticizing the British government’s new policy to tackle illegal immigration.

The 62-year-old took to Twitter to compare the language used to launch the new policy to that of Nazi-era Germany, which the BBC said on Friday was a “breach of our guidelines”.

“The BBC has decided that it will withdraw from presenting Match of the Day until we have an agreed and clear position on its use of social media,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

Lineker is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent member of staff, and is not responsible for news or political content so does not have to adhere to the same strict rules of impartiality.

Pundits and former England strikers Ian Wright and Alan Shearer immediately announced on Twitter that they too would not be participating, followed by the program’s commentators.

Wright then said on his podcast on Saturday that he would quit the BBC if Lineker was sacked for good.

The BBC has announced that Highlights, which has been shown on Saturday nights since 1964 and is the longest-running football television program in the world, will be broadcast without pundits or presenters for the first time.

It was also said that players would not be invited for interviews after some said they would not be available to support Lineker.

Adding to the chaos, sports presenters and pundits pulled out of a number of BBC radio and television shows on Saturday, forcing them to be canceled and replays and podcasts broadcast instead of live.

– ‘Extremely cruel’ –

The row was sparked by Lineker’s response to a video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel in small boats.

Lineker, the BBC’s highest-paid star, wrote on Twitter: “This is just immeasurably cruel policy aimed at the most vulnerable people in language not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s.”

The Conservative government intends to ban asylum applications from all illegal arrivals and transfer them to other places, such as Rwanda, in a bid to stem the crossings, which totaled more than 45,000 last year.

A YouGov poll published on Monday showed 50 percent support the measures and 36 percent against.

But human rights groups and the United Nations said the bill would make Britain an international outlaw under European and UN asylum conventions.

Some 36 Tory MPs have sent a letter to the BBC warning that the affair will “undoubtedly shake many people’s already fragile confidence” in the BBC’s impartiality.

They are demanding a full apology from Lineker from the BBC, which collects subscription fees from households with televisions.

The BBC’s move sparked a wave of criticism from politicians and public figures, many of whom accused it of caving in to demands from Conservative MPs.

Sports correspondent Natalie Pirks posted a picture of a statue of George Orwell outside the BBC’s free speech building, while a petition calling for Lineker to be reinstated has attracted almost 160,000 signatures.

Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke said the broadcaster had made a mistake.

“The real problem today is that the BBC has undermined its own credibility by doing this,” he told the broadcaster, adding that it could create the impression that “the BBC has caved in to government pressure”.

– Warning on social networks –

The issue culminated in a years-long debate about the BBC’s impartiality, which intensified after Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016.

Brexiteers argued that coverage of the corporation was biased against them, while the left argued it allowed presenters to disparage former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn with impunity.

The row over Lineker comes at a particularly heated time after it emerged that BBC chairman Richard Sharp allegedly provided a loan guarantee to former prime minister Boris Johnson while he was in the process of applying for the job.

BBC director-general Tim Davie warned staff about their use of social media when he took up the role in late 2020.

Lineker, a former Barcelona, ​​Tottenham and Everton player, has hosted refugees in his home and has previously been vocal in his criticism of the government’s handling of migrants.


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