How the Gary Lineker and Match-of-the-Day mayhem unfolded – and the impact it has on the BBC
TThe BBC and presenters planned to continue the day’s game as usual until Friday midday, before the broadcaster attempted to get Gary Lineker to agree to a solution deemed unacceptable by the flagship presenter. The company was still scrambling to find an alternative team as of Friday night after being turned down by a number of industry figures.
The Independent was told that the BBC hierarchy, via BBC Sport, wanted Lineker to agree to a public statement that would have been essentially an apology and a saying that he would be more cautious on social media, which sources close to the situation say rightly viewed as “self-humiliation” on the part of the presenter.
Consequently, it was the BBC’s decision to remove him from the match of the day. Lineker had already been in touch with Ian Wright when the former Arsenal striker told the host he would fully support him should things change and was ready to leave the show.
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The program team had nevertheless continued their usual Friday afternoon run-through meeting, with the only precaution to the controversy being that the presenters arrived at alternate studio entrances on Saturday due to the expected presence of photographers. The situation changed drastically at 4.15pm as Lineker had by then spoken to BBC hierarchy figures about the sport.
Afterwards, Lineker began informing others that he had been told he would not be presenting the show. The numbers surrounding Match of the Day were still trying to save the program at this point, reflecting a difference in position between BBC Sport and the broader organisation.
Wright, of course, had already made his decision that he would not be available and informed Alan Shearer, who also felt he had no choice. Two sources speak of how the whole situation – which could have a far greater impact on the BBC and Match of the Day – “changed in minutes”.
While there is now much uncertainty as to what will happen to the established team and whether this will continue for another week, a more immediate issue was what to do with Saturday night’s programme.
As of 6:30 p.m. Friday night, Match of the Day was in contention for a presenting team after being rejected by a number of industry figures. One broadcaster’s view was that “anyone who goes ahead will be seen as a scab and rightly hammered on social media”.
This resulted in the BBC confirming at around 9:30pm that the show would go ahead, but with the unprecedented scenario of there being no presenter or expert. The question then turned to the commentators on the match of the day, as well as stadium reporters and broader production staff, and the position they are in.
Six Premier League games were shown in Saturday night’s match of the day, but in another dramatic move, all six commentators assigned to work on games announced they would join the boycott. A statement from the group, including leading BBC commentator Steve Wilson, who tweeted his support for Lineker earlier in the afternoon, said “it would not be appropriate to be on the programme”.
Matches can still be shown with commentary if Match of the Day producers choose to use the Premier League’s ‘world feed’ – but the situation then changed to whether players and managers would join the boycott and themselves refuse to speak to the BBC out of solidarity with Lineker. The Independent understands that a number of Premier League clubs have major concerns about allowing their employers to attend the match of the day if it would constitute a “political act”.
Several players are understood to want to show unity with ex-professionals such as Lineker, Wright and Shearer, and talks have been held with the Professional Footballers Association about the possibility of joining the boycott. Fines could be imposed if players fail to comply with broadcasting obligations, but the PFA is seen by its members as supportive of such an attitude.
The widespread sentiment amid Friday’s chaos was that the BBC had “needlessly backed itself into a corner”, potentially at risk for a decades-old football brand.
The Independent has reached out to the BBC for comment.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/gary-linekar-motd-bbc-what-happened-b2298682.html How the Gary Lineker and Match-of-the-Day mayhem unfolded – and the impact it has on the BBC