BBC Sport at WAR: Confidential poll reveals a huge rift between staff

BBC Sport at WAR: Huge rift over Linekergate as management are attacked by angry staff in confidential snap poll seen by Sportsmail over lack of leadership in handling of debacle

  • There is a sense of anguish between BBC Sport employees and their hierarchy
  • A snap poll revealed to Sportsmail showed a huge rift in the department
  • The results saw 80% of respondents rate senior management zero out of five

BBC Sport has been split by an internal war following the reinstatement of Gary Lineker.

Insiders have disclosed a ‘huge rift’ in the department, with some outraged by the way the debacle played out and a snap poll seen by Sportsmail revealing overwhelming contempt for bosses.

On a day of unprecedented anger at the broadcaster’s Salford HQ, Sportsmail understands furious staff members confronted director of sport Barbara Slater over the way bosses dealt with the saga at a series of highly uncomfortable meetings.

The poll, presented to Slater, saw 80 per cent of respondents rate senior management zero out of five for the way they handled the situation.

There was also open incredulity at Slater when she claimed bosses could ‘not have seen how it would spiral’ after a host of pundits refused to work and brought the broadcaster to its knees after Lineker’s suspension.

There is an internal BBC war over the reinstatement of Match of the Day host Gary Lineker

An internal poll revealed to Sportsmail showed fury at the way the situation was handled

BBC director of sport Barbara Slater was confronted by furious staff members at Salford HQ

Criticism of Lineker was voiced, with Slater asked if he and other pundits were aware of the effect of their actions on staff.

Some asked why Match of the Day, which ended up being shown over 20, commentary-less minutes, could not have been presented by someone else. Slater, who apologised for the mess, triggered further ire when she responded: ‘Because he (Lineker) is the best in the business.’

Some staff are also angered by a perceived inconsistency. Sportsmail understands social media accounts are closely monitored by BBC officials, with some reprimanded if they as much as ‘like’ a political view on Twitter.

And there is frustration, made clear to Slater, that this was a mess of the BBC’s own making, along with scepticism that a review promised by director general Tim Davie will be effective.

Fury at a lack of leadership and communication was also raised, with many staff left in the dark until the last minute over whether shows would go ahead or not. Slater, who wanted the meetings to remain confidential, added she had ‘nothing but regret’ over events.

Davie suspended Lineker after he compared Government language on asylum seekers to Germany in the 1930s. That triggered a boycott by top names including Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Mark Chapman.

Radio 5 Live programmes were also scrapped, including the 606 phone-ins and build-up to Saturday and Sunday matches.

Commentators Ian Dennis, Alistair Bruce-Ball and John Murray covered games for 5 Live in circumstances laced with intense pressure. They were subjected to online abuse, with some branding them ‘scabs’.

There was also scepticism at the effectiveness of a review promised by director Tim Davie

Staff made clear to Slater (R) there was frustration at how Lineker’s situation (L) was handled

On Monday, Davie said sorry to those impacted, announcing a review on social media guidelines. Lineker will be back for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final between Burnley and Manchester City.

‘Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences,’ Davie said. ‘I apologise for this.’

Lineker tweeted: ‘After a surreal few days, I’m delighted we have navigated a way through this.

‘I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity.

‘Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.’

Chapman told Monday Night Club on 5 Live: ‘This weekend has been miserable and difficult for everyone involved.

‘It is ironic that in a row over impartiality we have all been seen to be taking sides and I feel there are lessons to be learnt by all involved.’

His colleague, Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton, added: ‘I’m glad the situation has been resolved.’

The BBC have received widespread criticism over their handling of the situation, including from broadcaster Piers Morgan and Sportsmail’s Simon Jordan.

Morgan felt the organisation had handled the situation poorly, telling talkSPORT: ‘It’s not a debate about impartiality as much as it’s a debate about free speech. 

‘Gary Lineker is not a BBC employee, he’s a freelancer, and like many freelancers who do stuff for the BBC, he reserves the right to have his opinions on his twitter feed.’

While Jordan also said on the radio station: ‘What they [BBC] did was handle it in a disastrously poor way, they didn’t communicate it properly, it looks like it’s been handed down from the Tories – and it may well have been.

‘It may well have been a directive from the Tory government, saying “we don’t like this”, and clearly some people think it is. I don’t care if that’s the case, but what do need to have is a BBC that operates with clear guidelines.’ 

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