(CNN) The BBC’s weekend football coverage was plunged into chaos following its announcement Gary Lineker would “withdraw” from the presentation, after he became embroiled in a row of impartiality when he criticized the policy of the British government on Twitter.
The broadcaster now faces a boycott by pundits, presenters and even players of its flagship football show ‘Match of the Day’, while other football programs – Football Focus and Final Score – and some radio programs are were forced off the air because of that. of the fury
Lineker criticized the government’s controversial new asylum seeker policy on Tuesday and was subsequently pulled from his presenting duties this week after the BBC said his tweets breached its guidelines, specifically his commitment to “due impartiality”.
The BBC’s decision has sparked controversy, leaving the organization under fire from opposition politicians, the BECTU trade union representing BBC staff, and its former director-general Greg Dyke.
“The BBC will only be able to carry limited sports programming this weekend and our timetables will be updated to reflect this,” a BBC spokesman said in a statement on Saturday.
“We regret these changes as we recognize they will be disappointing for BBC sports fans.
“We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.”
On Tuesday, Lineker tweeted “Good heavens, this is beyond horrible” to a video posted on Twitter by Britain’s Home Office announcing the proposed new policy – a attempt to stop migrant boats crossing the English Channel from France which has been criticized by the United Nations and other global bodies.
He added: “There is no large influx. We take in far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy aimed at the most vulnerable people in a language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”
Like Britain’s public broadcaster, the BBC is bound by “due impartiality” – a much-debated term that the organisation. define as holding “power to count with consistency” while not “allowing themselves to be used to campaign to change public policy.”
On Friday, the BBC announced that Lineker would “step back from presenting Match of the Day until we have an agreed and clear position on his use of social media”, adding that it had considered his recent social media activity to violate their guidelines.
In response, first the pundits, then the commentators, and even the Premier League teams announced their intention to boycott the show in support of Lineker.
BBC commentators Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen and Steven Wyeth said in a joint statement issued late on Friday that “in the circumstances, we do not feel it is appropriate to participate in the programme”.
Jermain Defoe, a former England striker, announced on Saturday that he will not appear as a pundit on Sunday’s show.
“It’s always such a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I’ve made the decision to step down from my punditry duties. @GaryLineker,” Defoe he tweeted.
Defoe’s announcement appears to be the first sign that the British broadcaster’s Sunday television programming will also be affected.
Meanwhile, the Professional Association of Footballers announced on Saturday that “players involved in today’s games will not be asked to take part in interviews with Match of the Day”.
“The PFA has spoken to members who wish to take a collective stand and be able to show their support for those who have chosen not to be part of tonight’s programme,” the statement added.
“During those conversations we made it clear that, like their union, we support all members who may face consequences for choosing not to fulfill their broadcast commitments. This is a common sense decision that ensures that the players will not be not now put in that position.”
After his team’s 1-0 defeat against Bournemouth on Saturday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was asked about the BBC issue.
“I can’t see any reason why they would ask someone to go back to say that. I’m not sure if it’s a language problem or not,” the German told reporters.
“If I understand correctly, then it is an opinion about human rights and that should be possible to say.
“What I don’t understand is why everyone goes on Twitter and says something. I don’t understand the social media part, but that’s probably it. [because] I’m too old for that.”
A political row
Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke said the broadcaster had “undermined its own credibility” by suspending Lineker because he appeared to have “bowed to government pressure”.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said the BBC had “got this wrong and now they are very, very exposed”.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon he tweeted: “As a strong supporter of public service broadcasting, I want to be able to defend the BBC. But the decision to take Gary Lineker off the air is indefensible. It is undermining freedom of expression in the face of political pressure – and it still seems. to be the pressure of the right that breaks.”
Opposition Labor MP Angela Rayner also criticized the BBC’s decision in a tweet on Saturday.
“The BBC’s cowardly decision to take Gary Lineker off air is an assault on freedom of expression in the face of political pressure from Tory politicians. They need to rethink,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Nadine Dorries, a ruling Conservative MP and former Culture Secretary, welcomed the BBC’s decision, tweeting: “The news that Gary Lineker has been stood down for the investigation is welcome and shows that the BBC is serious about impartiality.
“Gary is entitled to his views – freedom of speech is paramount. Plenty of Public Service Broadcasters can accommodate him and his views and he would be better paid.”