Gary Lineker expected to return as BBC bosses reportedly back down

Initially, the BBC took a firm approach, saying that Lineker had clearly breached the guidelines and would be removed from Match of the Day until further notice.


However, the corporation is being forced to row back after its sports coverage collapsed over the weekend, with presenters and commentators refusing to go on air in solidarity with Lineker.

The scale of the mutiny took BBC management by surprise and left licence fee payers without their regular coverage.

Match of the Day was scrapped and replaced with a 20-minute highlights show with no presenter, pundits, commentary or theme tune. However, viewing figures were up nearly half a million on the previous week as people tuned in out of curiosity.

Radio 5 Live’s weekend programming fell apart and last night’s Match of the Day 2 was also a short highlights package with no presenter.

Bosses were left with no choice but to give ground if they were to avoid the unofficial strike running into a second week. BBC Sport is to hold staff sessions today to address workers’ concerns.

Polling over the weekend showed that the majority of the public sided with Lineker, while Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, urged that the issue be resolved “in a timely fashion”.

Davie spent the weekend in what sources described as “intensive negotiations”, flying back from Washington DC to strike a deal with Lineker and his representatives. It was notable that Lineker, a prolific tweeter, stayed silent on social media over the weekend.

He spent Sunday having lunch with his sons and walking his dog. Asked outside his home if he had “come to an agreement with the BBC”, he replied: “I can’t say anything at the moment, I’m sorry.” One son, George, told reporters: “He loves Match of the Day. But he won’t ever back down on his word.”

However, Andrew Castle, the sports presenter, told LBC listeners that Lineker had privately conceded that his language was over the top.

“I said to him that I thought to draw parallels between the rise of Nazism in the 1930s, and the immigration policy of a serving Conservative Party was a step too far, and he agreed,” Castle said.

Tory MPs raised concerns that any resolution could call into question the BBC’s impartiality. Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, said: “It is clear Gary Lineker breached impartiality rules. If he does come back we need to have confidence that he won’t do this again.

“His comments were not only grossly offensive, wrong-headed and unwise, he has shown a complete lack of repentance and contrition. He thinks he can act with impunity.

“We need an apology from him about the comments he made and then we need to have details about what is being put in place to stop this happening in future. If those two things aren’t both addressed, I’ve got concerns about BBC impartiality and what this means for the broadcaster.”

Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet, said that Lineker must be bound by rules banning him from tweeting about politics.

He said: “Behind the scenes, it looks like the BBC has caved in quickly.”

David Jones, MP for Clwyd West and a former Cabinet minister, said: “This says more about the weakness of the director-general. If he reinstates Lineker without an enforceable undertaking not to engage in political tweeting again, he’ll have let all licence fee payers down.”

Telegraph, London

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