Gary Lineker on the one BBC criticism that he 'would gladly accept'
"We wanted to tell people the facts."
Gary Lineker admits the BBC is a heady mix of strange, imperfect and, at times, incredible but there is one piece of criticism about their World Cup coverage he 'would gladly accept'.
The former England international, and long-time BBC presenter, sat down with Oli Dugmore for JOE's Unfiltered and discussed a range of topics from his footballing, hosting and producing career.
Earlier this year, Lineker was temporarily suspended by the BBC for taking to social media to criticise the government's policy and language on immigration. That led to a huge backlash from the broadcaster's sports department and the decision was eventually reversed.
"The guidelines were brought in after I signed my contract," said Lineker. "The goal-posts were shifted, halfway through, and only became applicable to everyone. I try my best. I never tell anyone who I vote for. I'm never going to tell anyone what to do."
Lineker does feel the BBC 'needs to be more proud of itself and shot out a little more about how good it is'. The institution has its' faults and is occasionally a strange place to work, he says, but it does a lot of "incredible" shows and work.
"We get our salaries published now," he added. "And I'm one of those people that has been dead open about my salary. I don't do any tricky means to pay any less tax, or anything like that. I don't have it going [to me] via a production company, or anything like that. And I'm at the top of it - I'm pretty sure there's one or two that might earn more! - but I get battered for it, every July. It's nowJune so it's coming up again."
During the interview, Lineker was asked about the BBC's coverage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, last winter, and how the broadcaster dedicated a large amount of their tournament opener coverage dealing with the country's human rights issues and exploitation of migrant workers. As he discussed the BBC's World Cup coverage, Lineker did admit there was something it dropped the ball on.
Gary Lineker on valid BBC criticism
Presenting live from Al Bayt Stadium, back in November 2022, Gary Lineker kicked off the BBC World Cup opening game coverage with the following:
"It’s the most controversial World Cup in history, and a ball has not yet been kicked. Ever since Fifa chose Qatar back in 2010, the smallest nation to have hosted football’s greatest competition has faced some big questions."
Lineker then touched upon 'accusations of corruption in the bidding process to the treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums', the suppression of women's rights and freedom of expression and the fact that 'homosexuality is illegal here'.
"There was a reason that made this one different," Lineker told Unfiltered. "It was not necessarily human rights, because every World Cup we do has different issues, in some ways.
"We went to Moscow [in 2018], a few years after they had already invaded [Ukrainian territory]. We were in Rio [in 2014] and there were massive demonstrations everywhere about how we shouldn't be spending fortunes on building stadiums when they have so many social problems. The safety in South Africa [in 2010] was a a big thing that was talked about. There has always been something.
"But I think what made this one different was the way Qatar got the World Cup. It was corrupt, and we know that. The evidence was all there. I was in the room when they got it... it was, 'Qatar in the summer? It's 40, 50 degrees. You can't play football in that'. I remember, I felt like I needed a shower after I got out. It was that bad."
Lineker added that the mounting deaths of migrant workers, helping to build the stadiums and World Cup facilities and infrastructure, were facts that could not be ignored.
"We wanted to tell people the facts," he said, before adding that the production team drew on some 'heavyweights from the BBC news team to make sure it was right'. He continued:
"We should have done it in Russia, to be honest [and] in hindsight, after what they've done.
"And now, if it had been after [the invasion of] Ukraine... well, they did it in 2014 first. We probably should have done it then. It is the one criticism that I would gladly accept."
Asked how much of an input he had with that opening statement, in Qatar, Lineker replied, "Well, I do the words. So, obviously, a very strong part."
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