BBC and Gary Lineker closing in on deal to resolve impartiality row
Gary Lineker is reportedly set to return to Match Of The Day this coming weekend amid speculation he and the BBC are close to resolving their impartiality row.
There is “growing confidence” that the former England player will return to host the popular BBC show, according to reports, following a weekend which saw the broadcaster’s sports coverage suffer severe disruption.
Lineker did not appear on the football highlights programme after he was told to stand down from the role when he compared language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany in a Tweet.
The corporation is expected to announce it is reviewing its social media guidelines following the controversy and it is believed the sports broadcaster will agree to be more careful about what he tweets, the Telegraph said.
Football coverage on BBC TV and radio shows was hit across the weekend as fellow pundits, presenters and reporters – including Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and Alex Scott – walked out in “solidarity” with Lineker.
Match Of The Day aired for only 20 minutes on Saturday without accompanying commentary or analysis from presenters, with Sunday’s edition following a similar format and running for a reduced 15 minutes.
Coverage of the Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Manchester United aired without a pre-match presentation on Sunday, and Radio 5 Live replaced much of its usual live sports coverage over the weekend with pre-recorded content.
Lineker has not publicly commented on the situation since he was taken off air on Friday, telling reporters that he “can’t say anything” as they questioned him on the future of his presenting career when he left his home in Barnes, south-west London, to walk his dog on Sunday morning.
The broadcaster’s highest-paid presenter spent his Saturday afternoon supporting his home club Leicester City as they played Chelsea.
BBC director-general Tim Davie apologised for the disruption to the sporting schedule this weekend, but said he will not resign.
It is believed Mr Davie will be back at Broadcasting House on Monday after he had been in Washington, DC on Saturday, according to reports.
BBC chairman Richard Sharp is also facing growing pressure to resign as the corporation’s policy on impartiality has been called into question.
Mr Sharp, who was appointed chairman in February 2021, has been embroiled in a cronyism row over helping former prime minister Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility in recent months.
An investigation is being undertaken into his appointment but he now faces renewed scrutiny, with both shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell questioning Mr Sharp’s position in light of the Lineker row.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also called on the chairman to resign, saying his position is “totally untenable”.
Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak declined to back Mr Sharp’s character or integrity.
The pair have known each other since Mr Sharp was Mr Sunak’s mentor at Goldman Sachs.
Asked if he is a man of integrity, Mr Sunak said: “Richard Sharp was appointed by a government before my time, before I was Prime Minister.
“That process is being reviewed again by someone who has been appointed independently. It’s right that process finishes its course. It wouldn’t be right for me to speculate before then.”
Asked if he could endorse Mr Sharp’s character, the Prime Minister said: “I’ve known him obviously for a long time. But with regards to his appointment, it’s right that that’s done independently and rigorously. That process happened before I was Prime Minister, had nothing to do with me and at the time was conducted in all the way that it should have been.
“Now that process is being reviewed, the independent commissioner has appointed a leading barrister to review that process, it’s right that we let that continue.”
The BBC faces a strike on Wednesday when up to 1,000 journalists are expected to walk out on the same day Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to deliver his spring Budget.