Gary Lineker’s return to television screens has divided fans, with some calling for him to step down after he failed to apologise for his “disgraceful” Nazi tweet. The former football star, who is the highest-paid BBC pundit, was taken off air over his criticism of Suella Braverman’s migrant boats plan. His tweet, in which he likened the Illegal Migration Bill to “Germany in the ’30s,” was condemned as “foul, ill-conceived and disgraceful” by MPs.
Fans have piled in, with some calling for Lineker to quit and others saying that he should stick to football and leave politics to politicians. Some have also said that the BBC’s embarrassing U-turn 72 hours after taking Lineker off air may spell trouble for the corporation. One viewer said: “Lineker hammered the final nail home in the BBC’s coffin. Well done Gary – the license fee is now toast.”
Lineker’s co-hosts on Match of the Day, Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, also pulled out in support of their colleague. The BBC later confirmed that Lineker would return to the channel in an embarrassing climbdown 72 hours later. Director General Tim Davie apologised for the “difficult period” for staff, presenters and audiences after his embarrassing climbdown.
Lineker’s failure to apologise himself also attracted criticism. He marked his return to the popular TV show by tweeting a picture of him and teammates Shearer and Micah Richards. Opening the show, Lineker told viewers how thrilled he was to be back at his “Saturday job.” Shearer apologised to fans for missing last week’s show and said: “It’s good to get back to some sort of normality and talk about football.”
Since the controversy exploded, the BBC has come under fire for its handling of the situation. Mr Davie said in a statement that the corporation has commissioned an independent review of its social media guidelines and apologised for the impartiality row. He described the BBC’s commitment to freedom of expression and impartiality as a “difficult balancing act.” He added: “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.”
Lineker is reportedly yet to confirm his role presenting the BBC’s Champions League coverage when it kicks off next year. This comes as rival, BT Sport, is said to be targeting Lineker for their TNT Sports next season, according to Mail Online.
In other news, yesterday saw the arrival of the Home Secretary in Rwanda, to meet with President Paul Kagame and her counterpart Vincent Biruta, to discuss the plan.