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Tyne Talk

We stand with Gary Lineker

12 months ago
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Gary Lineker will not be on Match of The Day tonight.

Nor indeed will there be any pundits.

The show will still be broadcast but without a studio presenter, pundits…or indeed the regular commentators.

This has been coming for a long time, the Government not happy with Gary Lineker making comments they don’t like and trying to suppress him doing so.

Very dangerous, this attempted suppression of free speech, just because the Government of the day doesn’t like what it is hearing.

If/when the Government of the day is trying to control / influence the public broadcaster, this is totally unacceptable.

Gary Lineker isn’t a political reporter employed by the BBC, he is freelance and covers football.

When he wants to comment on whatever in a private capacity, providing it is within the law, then no rational person believes he is speaking on behalf of the BBC.

The only way the BBC / Government actions would have any minimal credibility at all, is if they treated everybody the same. Yet there are countless presenters who have made overtly political comments on a regular basis, such as Jeremy Clarkson and Alan Sugar, but the Government / BBC have never ever raised their actions as an issue.

Great to see the solidarity shown by Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and others, with Gary Lineker the subject of this vendetta by the BBC / Government.

For what it is worth, here at The Mag, we also stand with Gary Lineker. Undoubtedly one of the good guys.

BBC News Report – 11 March 2023:

‘Match of the Day will air later without a studio presenter, pundits, or its regular commentators, after the BBC told Gary Lineker to step back in a row over impartiality.

Pundits Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, Micah Richards and Jermaine Jenas have all said they will not appear on the show.

Alex Scott hinted the same while six members of the MOTD commentating team said they would also not take part.

It follows presenter Lineker’s criticism of government asylum policy.

On Twitter, the former England footballer had compared the language used by the government to unveil its new plans as “not dissimilar to” 1930s Germany.

The BBC said it it had asked Lineker to step back from presenting after “extensive discussions” with him.

The corporation said it considered his “recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines”, adding it had been “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”.

The BBC said the English Premier League football highlights show MOTD on Saturday night would instead “focus on match action”.

In a later statement, a 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.”

MOTD commentators Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen and Steven Wyeth shared a joint statement online, saying they “do not feel it would be appropriate to take part in the programme” on Saturday.’

BBC News Report – 10 March 2023:

‘Gary Lineker has been told to step back from presenting Match of the Day until an agreement is reached on his social media use, the BBC has said.

It follows an impartiality row over comments he made criticising the government’s new asylum policy.

The BBC said it considered Lineker’s “recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines”.

It added he should “keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies”.

The BBC asked Lineker to step back after “extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days”.

It “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”, the statement said.

It continued: “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.”

The move has led to Saturday’s Match of the Day going ahead without presenters or pundits – as one by one contributors ruled themselves out.

First, Ian Wright said he would not appear in “solidarity”, tweeting: “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, who also presents on the show, said he had “informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night”.

They were followed shortly after by contributors Jermaine Jenas and Micah Richards who both said that while they were not due to work on Saturday’s programme, they would not have appeared. Ex-England player Alex Scott also indicated she would not go on the show.

The BBC said the programme would instead “focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry”.

Lineker has not yet publicly commented but while presenting 5News earlier, former BBC presenter Dan Walker read out a text live on air from the 62-year-old.

Walker said he had messaged Lineker asking: “What is happening. Are you stepping back?”

He said he had received a reply saying: “No, they’ve [the BBC] told me I have to step back.”

On Tuesday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman outlined the government’s plans to ban people arriving in the UK illegally from ever claiming asylum, in a bid to address a rise in the number of people crossing the Channel in small boats.

Lineker reacted to it on Twitter calling it an “immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.

Ms Braverman hit out at Lineker’s tweet, saying it “diminishes the unspeakable tragedy” of the Holocaust.

Speaking on the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, the home secretary said the Nazi comparison was “lazy and unhelpful” and said her family “feel very keenly the impact of the Holocaust” as her husband is Jewish.

Many opposition MPs and charities also strongly objected to the government’s plans.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended the proposals saying stopping the arrival of small boats is a “priority” for the British people.

Richard Ayre, former controller of editorial policy at the BBC, who also served as a member of the regulator Ofcom’s content board, said the corporation had “no choice” but to take action against Lineker after his tweets criticising the government’s asylum policy.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, he said: “I think it was inevitable. He [Lineker] has the letters BBC written across his forehead and yet he’s plunged right into the most controversial story of the day.”

He said BBC Director General Tim Davie had “clearly tried” to reach an agreement with Lineker but failed, adding: “It’s inevitable now that having in effect not sacked him but removed him temporarily at least, the BBC will now come under a torrent of criticism saying it’s acting under the government’s behest.”

A Labour source told the BBC that the corporation should “rethink their decision”.

It 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. The BBC should rethink their decision.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the BBC’s decision “indefensible”. Writing on Twitter, she said the corporation was “undermining free speech in the face of political pressure – and it does always seem to be right-wing pressure it caves to”.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said in a statement: “Individual cases are a matter for the BBC.”

Lineker has hosted Match of the Day since 1999 and is the BBC’s highest paid star, having earned about £1.35m in 2020-21.

He is employed by the BBC on a freelance basis.

The ex-footballer has previously housed asylum seekers and publicly called for better rights and protections for refugees. He has also been critical of successive Conservative governments over issues including Brexit.

His comments have attracted widespread support on social media, with one tweet getting 235,000 likes.

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