BBC in meltdown as football shows canceled after stars staged mutiny over Gary Lineker

The BBC is struggling to contain the biggest crisis to hit the company in years as it was forced to rewrite its broadcast schedule after dozens of stars boycotted shows in support of Gary Lineker.

Lineker was ordered by the BBC to withdraw from hosting Saturday’s Football Highlights program in a row over impartiality after he compared the government’s asylum policy to Nazi Germany on Twitter.

Dozens of stars have since staged an extraordinary mutiny in solidarity with Lineker, forcing the BBC to drop Football Focus and Final Score from its programming and replace the programming with Bargain Hunt and The Repair Shop.

The company apologized for the rapidly deteriorating situation with football pundits, commentators and hosts, but the damage had already been done and questions are now being raised as to whether Sunday’s edition of Match of the Day 2 can go ahead.

The BBC is said to be preparing for a “quiet” match of the day with no commentators, with the show being reduced to just 20 minutes of airtime. It comes after:

  • BBC presenters Alex Scott, Kelly Somers and Jason Mohammad withdrew from their shows, resulting in Football Focus and Final Score being axed
  • The BBC announced that Saturday’s match of the day would take place without pundits, presenters and commentators
  • The company apologized for the disruption and insisted it was “working hard” to resolve the situation
  • Sir Keir Starmer led the backlash against the BBC’s decision, accusing it of “giving way” to Conservative MPs
  • The BBC has been accused of an “attack on freedom of expression” by suspending Lineker

The broadcaster also fears it won’t be able to fire Lineker or force him to follow social media rules on impartiality due to ambiguities in his contract. The Independent understands.

The company would be forced to pay millions if it wanted to oust Lineker and would likely lose any legal title to the Match of the Day host, senior figures believe.

Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker outside his home in London (James Manning/PA)

(PA wire)

The former England striker is understood to be on a two-year deal which was negotiated ahead of the appointment of current general manager Tim Davie. Mr Davie has repeatedly stressed the importance of the BBC’s impartiality and has cited a crackdown on BBC stars who have made political comments on social media.

But Lineker’s contract was already in effect and hasn’t been updated, giving the presenter an important advantage as the dispute heats up. Lineker is following the letter of his contract but not the spirit of the rules imposed on presenters, a senior BBC personality has said The Independent.

Ian Wright and Alan Shearer were the first to announce they were boycotting BBC sports programmes

(Tom Dulat/Getty Images for eSC)

Bosses are now hoping to renegotiate their agreement with Lineker and set clearer rules for him to return to work after he was suspended for comparing the government’s asylum policy to Germany in the 1930s.

Former director-general Greg Dyke previously said the BBC had “undermined its own credibility” by taking Lineker off the air. Mr Dyke, director-general of the BBC between 2000 and 2004 and a former FA chairman, said the broadcaster was “wrong” to remove him.

Labor Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said the suspension was “an attack on freedom of expression”, while party leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the BBC of “backing down” on Conservative MPs.

He added that at the heart of the dispute was the government’s “failure” in the asylum system.

“What they should do is stand up, accept that they broke the asylum system and tell us what they are going to do to actually fix it and not bitch about Gary Lineker,” Mr Starmer said.

BBC chairman Richard Sharp has been urged to resign amid the impartiality row


Speak with The IndependentBlair-era sports secretary Chris Smith said the BBC was making a “huge mistake”.

Mr Smith said those calling for Lineker’s sacking are “the very same people who have been jumping up and down to condemn the abort culture and praise freedom of expression”. He added that the BBC should be “pro-freedom of expression in all situations”.

Meanwhile, Labor MP and former BBC radio reporter Ben Bradshaw claimed that Tory MPs, who “lost their marbles” over Lineker’s tweet, were simply trying to distract from “their latest unworkable” asylum bill. He added: “It totally blew them up.”

The excitement surrounding Mr Lineker’s use of social media comes as BBC chairman Richard Sharp is being investigated by William Shawcross, Commissioner for Public Appointments, after claims he helped Boris Johnson secure a loan of up to £800,000 to secure pounds before being recommended for the job by then Prime Minister. The Company is investigating whether its conflict of interest rules have been violated since Mr. Sharp joined the Company.

Former journalist Baroness Wheatcroft added pressure, calling for the suspension of “clearly partisan” Mr Sharp, while Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said he should resign because of the row.

As the BBC struggled to fix a meltdown of their own creation, Mr Lineker looked cheerful as he left his home in London to travel to Leicester to watch the Premier League game against Chelsea. BBC in meltdown as football shows canceled after stars staged mutiny over Gary Lineker

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