Gary Lineker is to return as presenter of the flagship BBC soccer show Match of the Day, the broadcaster said yesterday, ending a crisis sparked by his criticism of the UK government’s new asylum policy.
The former England soccer player was suspended on Friday after using Twitter last week to compare the language used to launch the new policy to the rhetoric of Nazi-era Germany.
His comments and removal sparked days of frenzied media coverage, that escalated on Friday after fellow presenters, pundits and commentators refused to work over the weekend in support.
That threw the publicly funded broadcaster’s sports coverage into disarray, curtailing its highlights package to just 20 minutes, without commentary or analysis.
Yesterday, the two sides said they had come to an agreement that would see Lineker return to screens and the launch of an internal review into the corporation’s social media guidelines.
“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,” BBC director-general Tim Davie said.
In a joint statement, Lineker, 62, said: “I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”
He wrote separately that the past few days, during which he has been mobbed outside his London home by reporters, photographers and camera crews, had been “surreal.”
In a parting shot he added: “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.”
Davie apologized for the disruption to the service, saying he recognized the “potential confusion caused by the gray areas of the BBC’s social media guidance.”
“Impartiality is important to the BBC. 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,” he said.
The independent review is to look at how the guidance applies to staff and freelancers such as Lineker, he added.
Former Leicester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona striker Lineker, who has hosted refugees in his home, has been an at times outspoken figure against government policy, particularly on immigration.
His comments overshadowed the announcement of plans to toughen laws governing asylum seekers, including the removal of those coming to the UK across the English Channel from northern France in small boats.
Critics of Lineker said he should stay out of politics, given his high-profile sports presenting position, and Davie’s drive for BBC impartiality.
Lineker has said that as a freelancer not working in news he is not bound by the same social media rules.
Taiwan’s Lin Chun-yi yesterday bowed out at the Malaysia Masters, defeated in the semi-finals a day after an epic quarter-final against the highest-ranked player left in the men’s singles draw. Lin lost to Weng Hongyang of China 21-13, 21-19 after a draining match against Japan’s Kodai Naraoka a day earlier in which the second game had 59 points. The 23-year-old left-hander had won his only previous BWF match against his Chinese opponent. However, Weng booked a place in today’s final after easing past the Taiwanese battler. He faces India’s H.S. Prannoy, who advanced when Indonesia’s Christian Adinata retired while trailing 19-17 in the
Kosovo Olympic authorities have asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to open disciplinary proceedings against Novak Djokovic, accusing the Serb of stirring up political tension by saying “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia” at the French Open. Djokovic wrote the message on a camera lens following his first-round win on Monday, the same day that 30 NATO peacekeeping troops were hurt in clashes with Serb protesters in the Kosovo town of Zvecan where Djokovic’s father grew up. “Kosovo is our cradle, our stronghold, center of the most important things for our country,” 36-year-old told Serbian media. Serbian authorities said 52 protesters were wounded
Unable to sleep the night before her first-round match at the French Open against second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine checked her phone at 5am on Sunday and saw disturbing news back home in Kyiv. At least one person was killed when the capital of Kostyuk’s nation was subjected to the largest drone attack by Russia since the start of the war, launched with an invasion assisted by Belarus in February last year. “It’s something I cannot describe, probably. I try to put my emotions aside any time I go out on court. I think I’m better than
China has long been the sleeping giant of men’s tennis, but on Monday the giant stirred as Shanghai trailblazer Zhang Zhizhen advanced to the second round of Roland Garros. One of three Chinese men in the draw, Zhang became the first from the nation to win a main draw match at Roland Garros in 86 years after Serbian opponent Dusan Lajovic retired due to illness when trailing 6-1, 4-1. Compatriots Shang Juncheng and Wu Yibing bowed out in defeat, but 26-year-old Zhang has a big chance to go further when he takes on Argentine qualifier Thiago Agustin Tirante for a place in