Gary Lineker has confirmed that he is set to return to Match of the Day this weekend after he was briefly suspended over his tweets that criticised the government’s migration policy. The BBC have also offered the presenter an apology and announced an independent review into its social media usage guidelines.
In a tweet published by Lineker this morning, he said: “After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.
“A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you. “We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people.”
Lineker was taken off the air for Saturday’s Match of the Day and his absence was followed by both Alan Shearer and Ian Wright pulling out of the episode as they stood in solidarity with the former striker. A number of other BBC pundits and presenters also protested alongside Lineker, with both Football Focus and Final Score also taken off air over the weekend.
Match of the Day was aired for only 20 minutes without commentary, pundit analysis, post-match interviews or theme music. However, a whopping £2.6 million people tuned in on Saturday night - nearly half a million more than last weekend’s episode - as fans eagerly awaited to see how the programme would be hosted.
Following a turbulant weekend for the broadcasters, Director General of the BBC Tim Davie said: “Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences. I apologise for this. 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. Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend.”
Lineker has received his fair share of criticism over the weekend, however the majority have shown plenty of support for the former England international. Here is how fans across the country have reacted to Lineker’s return...
• @henrywinter - “Sanity prevails. @BBC bosses back down. @GaryLineker returns to @BBCMOTD. Independent review into guidelines for social media use. @BBCSport reputation is enhanced as staff stood together as good teams do (even if some had concerns). Now get on with the (excellent) shows.”
• @paulasherriff - “We’re so proud of you, Gary. You’re the best of us. Please continue being an upstander and never a bystander. #RefugeesWelcome”
• Alexmitton10 - “Common sense prevails, took long enough.”
• @king_pableo - “Oh are you back now? MOTD was much better last weekend. Short and sweet with the highlights. Rather than listening to unnecessary biased chat. Any footballer can do this job.”
• @JuliaBramble - “So much respect for you for speaking out and your colleagues for backing you. Fantastic that the BBC has finally seen sense.”
• @peterjharvey - “The matter is settled for now. Good. The statement, however, should be clearer in admitting that the BBC got it wrong, and that the future review will help the organisation learn the lessons. The inference of ‘we got it wrong’ is not enough.”
• @KreaseChan - “Great message. Thanks for not backing down and for showing this real solidarity.”
• @podesta_lesley - “Your stand on this issue means a great deal. Thank you for your humanity and principles.”
• @martincahill_01 - “That’s me done with forms of BBC Sport. When millionaire pundits can go on strike then that’s that - Gary and his mates club can carry on earning millions while the rest of the tax/licence payers carry on.”
• @h1llbillies - “Well said. Thank you for using your voice to express a sentiment that many of us feel.”
• @bigrichinnes - “What do we think Lineker’s opening gambit will be on Saturday’s MOTD, then? I’m going a cheeky ‘Did I miss anything?’ and a trademark knowing grin.”
• @MiguelDelaney - “Gary Lineker back as MOTD host. What a climbdown for the BBC and fair play to Lineker.”
• @DavidLammy - “Glad that normal coverage will resume and @GaryLineker will return to his rightful place on MOTD, but it should never have come to this. The BBC should not cower to the populist whims of Tory politicians and right-wing media frenzies. Our democracy depends on it.”
• @RichardBurgon - “Very welcome that Gary Lineker will be back on MOTD. But this crisis has exposed just how closely aligned the BBC leadership is to the Tory party. Richard Sharp, the BBC Chair who donated £400,000 to the Tories, must go. And we need an end to all political appointees to the BBC.”