The BBC have removed Gary Lineker from Match of the Day duties after he refused to apologise for his social media posts.
Lineker caused a storm this week with his response to a Home Office video that showed Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiling her new plan to stop migrants crossing the Channel.
He tweeted: ‘There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?’
That caused a flurry of Conservatives and right-wing commentators to demand his sacking from his role as Match of the Day presenter and as recently as Thursday it seemed that the BBC would back Lineker’s right to free speech.
He tweeted: ‘Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days. Happy that this ridiculously out of proportion story seems to be abating and very much looking forward to presenting @BBCMOTD on Saturday. Thanks again for all your incredible support. It’s been overwhelming.’
But on Friday – soon after we published this gushing tribute – the BBC announced that he would be ‘stepping back’ from the programme, though the BBC made it clear that it was their decision. He has, in football parlance, been mutually consented.
A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC has been in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days. We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines.
“The BBC has 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.
“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.”
If that wasn’t clear enough, it became quickly clear that Lineker has not ‘stepped back’ but been removed from the programme.
Source close to Gary Lineker says he has not agreed to step back from MOTD – claiming the BBC has taken him off air.
It’s understood Lineker is unwilling to apologise for his tweets and admit he should not have posted them.
The BBC has been approached for comment. https://t.co/w4rhDVcVVE
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) March 10, 2023
Ian Wright has already said he will not appear on the show, 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.’