Gary Lineker’s recent suspension from his role as host of Match Of The Day has caused controversy and division among the BBC’s sports presenters. Ian Wright, former Arsenal player and current pundit, has criticised the BBC’s handling of the situation, calling it a “hot mess”. Lineker was temporarily removed from his position after posting tweets that were deemed to be in breach of the BBC’s impartiality rules. However, after tense talks, he was reinstated and will front the FA Cup coverage on Saturday.
Wright was one of several presenters who stood by Lineker’s side during the controversy, even threatening to quit MOTD over the treatment of his colleague. Speaking on his podcast Wrighty’s House, Wright expressed his frustration with the situation, saying that it had become a “perfect distraction” from what really matters. He went on to say that the BBC had made a “hot mess” of the situation, and that heads should roll over the mismanagement of the affair.
The row began when Lineker responded to a video on Twitter of Home Secretary Suella Braverman presenting the Government’s small boats plan. Lineker’s comments were seen as a breach of the BBC’s impartiality rules, which state that staff must “avoid taking sides on political controversies” and “take care when addressing public policy matters”. The BBC subsequently suspended Lineker from his role as host of MOTD.
Lineker’s suspension caused chaos at the BBC, with several sports programmes being cancelled as staff protested against the decision. Match Of The Day ran for just 20 minutes without commentary or theme tune, while Football Focus, Final Score, Fighting Talk and 5Live’s 606 football phone-in were all cancelled. Match Of The Day 2 also ran for just 14 minutes without presenters or commentary.
Lineker’s reinstatement has been criticised by some, including Tory MP Tom Hunt, who called for him to apologise for his “grossly offensive remarks”. Hunt also criticised the BBC for allowing “freelancers” like Lineker to act with impunity when it comes to impartiality rules. However, Lineker has refused to apologise for his tweets.
The controversy has highlighted the difficulties faced by broadcasters in maintaining impartiality in an increasingly polarised political climate. It has also raised questions about the role of social media in public discourse, and whether broadcasters should be held to account for their comments on platforms like Twitter.
Despite the controversy, Lineker will return to his role as host of MOTD this weekend. His reinstatement has been welcomed by many fans of the show, who see him as an integral part of its success. However, the fallout from the controversy is likely to continue for some time, as the BBC faces criticism from both sides of the political spectrum over its handling of the situation.