Gary Lineker to return to air as BBC apologise, launch review and admit ‘grey areas’

Joe Williams
Lineker overwhelmed by BBC

Gary Lineker will return to his Match of the Day duties after the director general of the BBC Tim Davie apologised over a “difficult period”.

Lineker was told to step back from presenting the programme in a row over impartiality but will return to hosting coverage this weekend.

Writing on Twitter, Lineker 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.

“I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost three decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday.”

Football coverage on BBC TV and radio shows was hit across the weekend as pundits walked out in “solidarity” with Lineker after the former England captain was told to stand down from presenting Match of the Day when he compared language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.

Match of the Day aired for only 20 minutes on Saturday without accompanying commentary or analysis from presenters, and Sunday’s edition of Match of the Day 2 ran for a reduced 15 minutes in similar style.

Davie’s statement on Monday morning read: “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.

“Impartiality is important to the BBC. It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression.

“That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles. The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate.

“Accordingly, we are announcing a review led by an independent expert – reporting to the BBC – on its existing social media guidance, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs. The BBC and myself are aware that Gary is in favour of such a review.

“Shortly, the BBC will announce who will conduct that review. Whilst this work is undertaken, the BBC’s current social media guidance remains in place.

“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.”

READ MORE: After Gary Lineker fiasco comes a BBC radio strike: Which side are you on?