Match of the Day viewing figures up by half a million on last week as 2.58m viewers tune in despite having no presenters or commentators amid Gary Lineker crisis
- Sunday’s MOTD2 is also expected to follow a similar format with no commentary
- Read more: BBC could ‘have to pay presenter millions’ if they sack Gary Lineker
Saturday night’s Match Of The Day (MOTD) which saw no presenters or commentary was watched by 2.58 million viewers, figures show, as the row over Gary Lineker’s criticism of government policy rumbles on.
A severely cut-back version of MOTD, rebranded as Premier League Highlights, was viewed by 500,000 more people than the show last Saturday according to BBC News, despite being just 20 minutes long.
Lineker was forced to step back from presenting duties after comments he made in a tweet which likened the language used by the government to describe people who arrive in the UK on small boats to that used in 1930s Nazi Germany.
His scheduled appearance on Saturday’s MOTD was cancelled, sparking a wave of presenters and pundits also refusing to appear on the broadcaster’s football programming.
It comes as Sunday’s programming is also set to be disrupted as BBC staff members walk out in a show of solidarity with the presenter.
Gary Lineker was forced to step back from this week’s MOTD, causing a wave of football stars refusing to appear on the BBC’s scheduled programming
Instead of the full MOTD programme, the BBC showed just 20 minutes of ‘Premier League Highlights’ with no commentary or theme tune
Last night’s show was drastically shorter than the normal two-hour programme and featured no commentary at all, with crowd noise being amplified instead.
There was also no punditry, theme tune or MOTD branding on the show.
Instead, short highlight clips of the day’s matches were aired which fans blasted as a poor replacement.
One social media user said: ‘What even is this, this has to be the most soulless MOTD shows ever broadcast.’
After Lineker confirmed he would not be appearing on Saturday’s programme fellow pundits Alan Shearer and Ian Wright also stepped back from the show.
Soon afterwards Football Focus and Final Score had to be hurriedly replaced with episodes of Bargain Hunt and The Repair Shop after hosts Alex Scott, Kelly Somers, and Jason Mohammad all refused to appear.
Radio programming was also affected, with much of 5Live’s schedule being changed at the last minute.
Football Focus host Alex Scott initially posted a gif on her social media reading: ‘Nah, not me.’
She later clarified and said appearing on the show didn’t ‘feel right’.
She said: ‘I made a decision last night that even though I love doing football focus and we have had an incredible week winning an SJA award that it just doesn’t feel right going ahead with the show today. Hopefully I will be back in the chair next week…’
On the radio football presenter Mark Chapman pulled out of broadcasting alongside Colin Murray, and pundit Dion Dublin, forcing the replacement of 5 Live Sport and Fighting Talk with old podcast episodes.
Gary Lineker waves to fans as he arrives prior to the Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea FC on Saturday
After Lineker confirmed he would not be appearing on Saturday’s programme fellow pundits Alan Shearer and Ian Wright also stepped back from the show
Jermain Defoe, who was due to appear on Match of the Day 2 on Sunday, has also pulled out of programming.
He tweeted: ‘It’s always such a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I have taken the decision to stand down from my punditry duties.’
The show is expected to take on a similar format to MOTD on Saturday.
The Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Manchester United will also air on the BBC without a pre-match presentation or commentary.
There are fears the walkout, described by one BBC journalist as ‘Armageddon – essentially an entire division of the BBC has gone on strike’, could spread.
Gabby Logan and the rest of the rugby Six Nations team are also said to be considering refusing to appear on air until Lineker is reinstated.
Lineker’s son yesterday claimed he had been removed from air for refusing to apologise for his use of social media.
The BBC has a strict impartiality code for its presenters and staff which includes social media and that Director General of the BBC Tim Davie is said to be cracking down on.
Mr Davie has apologised for the disruption but said he will not resign.
It is the latest controversy to hit the corporation after its chairman, Richard Sharp, became embroiled in a cronyism row over him helping Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility.
The BBC also faces a strike on Wednesday where up to 1,000 journalists are expected to walk out on the same day Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to deliver his Spring Budget.
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