BBC apologizes for sports programs boycotted by presenters and pundits

The BBC has issued an apology after being forced to shut down several sports programs following a boycott by presenters and pundits in support of Gary Lineker.

The channel said it would only air “limited sports programming” over the weekend and was “working hard to resolve the situation”.

TV and radio sporting schedules for Saturday were changed at the last minute and Sunday’s match of the day was also put in question.

It comes after Lineker was told to step down from hosting Saturday’s back-to-back football highlights program over impartiality.

The show will be limited to around 20 minutes and will not feature any accompanying commentary or analysis as the broadcaster reportedly has no rights to the Premier League’s global commentary feed.

Other sports presenters such as Alex Scott, Kelly Somers and Jason Mohammad said they were canceling their shows, resulting in Football Focus and Final Score being dropped from BBC One programming, while 5 Live’s radio coverage was also changed.

In a statement, a BBC spokesman said: “The BBC will only be able to bring limited sports programming this weekend and our timetables are being updated to reflect this.

“We regret these changes which we recognize will be disappointing for BBC sports fans.

“We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.”

The company’s athletic director, Barbara Slater, also apologized to employees for disrupting the schedule.

In the letter, Ms Slater said: “We are sorry for the impact this weekend’s news about Gary Lineker and Match Of The Day is having on the entire department.

“We understand how worrying this is for all of you – the BBC Sport staff and our freelance community – and we understand the strength of the feelings this issue has provoked.”

On Saturday, Bargain Hunt was broadcast on BBC One instead of Football Focus at 12pm, while The Repair Shop is broadcast at 4.30pm instead of Final Score.

Match Of The Day is due to take place on Saturday night without a presenter, pundits and several regular commentators, but Sunday’s edition could also be disrupted after football pundit Jermain Defoe announced he would not be appearing.

Defoe tweeted: “It’s always such a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I made the decision to step down from my duties as an expert witness. @GaryLineker.”

BBC Radio 5 Live was also affected on Saturday with Mark Chapman not appearing for 5 Live Sport or Fighting Talk.

His stance casts further doubts as to whether Sunday’s Match Of The Day 2 will air as normally as he is supposed to host.

BBC presenter Colin Murray tweeted about 5 Live not showing Fighting Talk: “No @FightingTalk316 today for obvious reasons.

“In the interest of transparency, this was a decision made by the entire FT team and myself.”

Pre-recorded content replaced the live broadcasts with The Kammy & Ben’s Proper Football Podcast airing during Fighting Talk’s slot, followed by The Footballer’s Football Podcast airing on Radio 5 Live when 5 Live Sport aired were.

Amid the suspension, Lineker was pictured at the Premier League game between Leicester City and Chelsea on Saturday afternoon.

The 62-year-old former England player was taken off the air over a tweet comparing the language used to introduce a new government asylum-seekers policy to 1930s Germany.

The broadcaster said it “decided” that Lineker would take a break from presenting Match Of The Day until an “agreed and clear position” on its use of social media was reached.

Former England footballers Alan Shearer and Ian Wright announced later on Friday night that they were boycotting MOTD in solidarity with Lineker, while several commentators also confirmed they would be stepping down from Saturday’s broadcast.

In a joint statement, commentators – including Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Rowen and Steven Wyeth – said they “did not feel it was appropriate to participate in the program given the current circumstances”.

The BBC previously said the program would “focus on match action with no studio presentation or expert knowledge” and said it understood the position of its presenters.

On Saturday morning, former Arsenal star and England player Scott joined her fellow presenters in confirming she would not be hosting Football Focus.

She wrote on Twitter: “I made a decision last night even though I love my show and we had an incredible week winning an SJA for Football Focus that it doesn’t feel right for me to continue the show today .

“Hopefully I’ll be back in the chair next week.”

Sports presenter Somers also announced she would not be presenting a BBC show on Saturday and pundit Glenn Murray withdrew from appearing on Football Focus and Final Score on Saturday.

Welsh presenter Mohammad also confirmed he would not be hosting Final Score, while footballers and pundits Dion Dublin and Leon Osman both said they would not appear on Radio 5 Live to support their BBC Sport counterparts.

5 Live’s senior football reporter Ian Dennis appeared on the airwaves on Saturday but admitted it had been a “very difficult” day.

During his comment he said: “It is also a very difficult time for BBC Sport and for those who work in the department. We all hope this gets resolved.

“I personally found it very difficult today but I’m a BBC staff member, I’m a radio commentator for BBC 5 Live and today, like every Saturday afternoon, we offer you, the audience, a service.”

Amid the backlash, former BBC chief executive Greg Dyke said the company made a “mistake” and “undermined its own credibility” by taking Lineker off the air.

Meanwhile, Richard Ayre, former head of editorial policy at the BBC, praised Lineker as a “naturally gifted TV presenter” but said the channel’s reputation was “greater and more important” than any individual.

A spokesman for the Professional Footballers’ Association said in a statement on Twitter that they had been “informed that players involved in tonight’s games will not be asked to attend interviews with Match Of The Day.”

It continued: “The PFA has spoken to members who wanted to take a common position and show their support for those who have chosen not to be part of today’s programme.

“During these discussions we made it clear that as their union we would support any members who may face consequences for choosing not to meet their broadcasting obligations.

“This is a sensible decision that ensures players are not put in that position now.”

The Sports Journalists Association (SJA) also said it “fully supports” the freedom of expression of its members and colleagues within the industry following the boycott. BBC apologizes for sports programs boycotted by presenters and pundits

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