‘We remain a country of predominantly tolerant people’: Gary Lineker shares pointed statement after migrant Twitter storm as BBC bosses bring him back to MOTD – but doesn’t apologise and says row ‘doesn’t compare to fleeing your home’
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Gary Lineker today refused to apologise and used his reinstatement by the BBC to hammer home his views on migrants and suggest some of his critics are intolerant.
The footballer turned broadcaster, 62, was taken off air for a tweet comparing the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.
But after he was begged to return, his first assignment back on the BBC will be to present live coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley on Saturday.
Mr Lineker said today: ‘However difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you.
‘We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you.’
Television presenter and former footballer Gary Lineker leaves his home in London today as the BBC invited him back to present Match of the Day
Gary Lineker announces his return to Match of the Day in a defiant series of tweets, in which he spoke about refugees
BBC director-general Tim Davie said in a statement the corporation would now commission an independent review of its social media guidelines, particularly for freelancers.
Minutes after the official BBC statement was published, Lineker tweeted: ‘After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this.
READ MORE ‘Gary Lineker – the man who destroyed the BBC licence fee’: MPs warn Tim Davie his ‘pathetic capitulation to the star is end of the road’ for the broadcaster
‘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.
‘I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost three decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday.
In a follow-up tweet, Gary Lineker said he wanted ‘to thank Tim Davie for his understanding during this difficult period’.
He added: ‘He has an almost impossible job keeping everybody happy, particularly in the area of impartiality. I am delighted that we’ll continue to fight the good fight, together.’
Confirming Lineker would return to Match of the Day on Saturday, Mr Davie said the presenter ‘will abide by the editorial guidelines’ until a review of the BBC’s social media policy is complete.
In his statement issued on Monday, the director-general said: ‘Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences. I apologise for this.
‘The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air.’
Mr Davie told the BBC he did ‘the right thing’ in asking Lineker to step back from presenting duties, but said he ‘respects the views’ of the presenters and pundits who walked out in solidarity with the former England striker.
The BBC Board said it welcomed the agreement between Lineker and the broadcaster, saying it was ‘the right time’ to review its social media guidelines.
A Downing Street spokesman declined to say whether the Prime Minister has confidence in Tim Davie following the impartiality row, stressing that the choice of BBC director-general was a matter for the corporation.
Asked about the PM’s position on the licence fee, the spokesman said: ‘We remain committed to the licence fee for the rest of the current charter.
‘But we’ve been clear that the BBC’s funding model faces major challenges due to changes in the way people consume media and it’s necessary to look at ways to ensure long-term sustainability.’
BBC director-general Tim Davie, pictured today, has denied he will resign over the row and denied the corporation’s handling of the row had been catastrophic
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 – joined the walkout.
READ MORE: Ian Wright and Alan Shearer WON’T face punishment for boycotting Match of the Day in support of Gary 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.
Following the news that the former England footballer will return to his role at the BBC, ex-presenter Dan Walker and former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville were among those appearing to poke fun at the BBC’s U-turn.
‘Unnecessary fixture decided by an own goal,’ Walker tweeted.
Sky Sports pundit Neville was amused by the fact BBC Director-General Tim Davie had apologised to Lineker, tweeting the word ‘apology’ with two laughing emojis.
Current MOTD commentator Conor McNamara, who was one of a number of BBC Sports pundits to pull out of their regular presenting roles over the weekend in solidarity with Lineker, tweeted: ‘Now… can we go back to arguing about VAR?’
Fellow MOTD presenter Steve Wilson also shared his response to the resolution, tweeting: ‘So delighted that there’s a resolution.
‘I can now get on with prep for games this week which include trips to Molineux and Bramall Lane for the BBC.’
Former BBC news executive Sir Craig Oliver also commented on the weekend’s sporting schedule ‘chaos’, saying the corporation made the ‘wrong choice’ when it asked Lineker to step back, which led to other BBC sports staff refusing to do their shows.
‘I think it’s a total mess,’ he added
The BBC is in crisis over the decision to suspend then reinstate Lineker
Sir Craig, who was later the Downing Street communications chief when David Cameron was prime minister, told BBC News: ‘I think what’s happened here is Gary Lineker 1 – BBC credibility nil.
‘The reality is the BBC today has announced it will have a review of its social media guidelines. In fact, it needs a review of how it handles crisis like these.’
Elsewhere on social media, Lineker’s eldest son, George, tweeted a goat emoji – often used to signify G.O.A.T, meaning Greatest Of All Time for sportspeople – in response to the news that his father would be returning to his BBC presenting duties.
Comedians Nish Kumar and Dara O Briain shared their thoughts, with Kumar tweeting: ‘One of the best things about the end of the Match Of The Day saga, is that we don’t have to listen to various Tory MP’s talk about football. It’s been like listening to a dog describe chess.’
O Briain wrote: ‘Well done @garylineker at enduring this ridiculous, contrived ‘controversy’; and demonstrating that, as ever, people are perfectly capable of handling the idea that a grown-up can have a public job and also be separately, politically engaged in their own time. We’re not babies.’
Former BBC foreign correspondent Jon Sopel used the analogy of Liverpool’s recent catastrophic win over Manchester United to share his thoughts on the BBC’s back-peddling, tweeting: ‘Umm. To put this in footballing terms, this is akin to the result at Anfield last weekend. And Lineker is Liverpool.’
The tweet followed Sopel’s earlier post in which he wrote: ‘Thought for Monday: it’s taken the Treasury and Bank of England less time to deal with complexity of finding a buyer for a failed bank, involving billions of pounds and affecting 1000s of investors, than it has for the BBC to sort out a tweet from Gary Lineker.’
Labour also weighed in on the conversation, which has dominated news headlines and front pages for the past week, and welcomed the announcement of Lineker’s MOTD return.
Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said: ‘This is welcome and we will all be pleased to see Gary Lineker and football coverage back on the BBC this weekend. A review of the BBC’s social media guidelines is clearly needed.
‘But much bigger questions remain about the impartiality and independence of the BBC from government pressures.’
She added: ‘As well as a review of the BBC’s social media guidelines, this saga should prompt the Government to examine how it protects and promotes a truly independent and impartial BBC.’
Shadow foreign secretary and MP for Tottenham David Lammy tweeted: ‘Glad that normal coverage will resume and @GaryLineker will return to his rightful place on £MOTD, but it should never have come to this.
‘The BBC should not cower to the populist whims of Tory politicians and right-wing media frenzies. Our democracy depends on it.’
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