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13th Mar 2023

Gary Lineker set to return to Match of the Day following BBC apology

Robert Redmond

Gary Lineker

The BBC is due to air two FA Cup quarter-finals next weekend

Gary Lineker is set to return to TV screens next weekend following his removal from Match of the Day for apparently breaching BBC impartiality guidelines.

The Match of the Day presenter was asked to step down from his role as host of the football highlights show after the corporation took issue with a tweet he published about the government’s immigration policy, which he compared to “Germany’s in the 30s.”

Lineker has since broken his silence with a statement on Twitter, while the BBC have offered an apology for the episode.

Lineker’s statement reads:

“After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that 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. I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost 3 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. A final thought: 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.”

While the BBC statement by Tim Davie, the director general of the BBC, reads:

“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.

“Impartiality is important to the BBC. It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression. That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles.

“The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate.

“Shortly, the BBC will announce who will conduct that review. Whilst this work is undertaken, the BBC’s current social media guidance remains in place.

“Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend.

“Accordingly, we are announcing a review led by an independent expert – reporting to the BBC – on its existing social media guidance, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs. The BBC and myself are aware that Gary is in favour of such a review.”

The BBC made the decision to leave him off Match of the Pundit after he refused to make an apologetic statement on the show regarding his comments.

Following the announcement, a slew of Match of the Day pundits and football journalists across the BBC pulled out of their duties on Saturday.

As a result, the broadcaster’s flagship football highlights show went ahead with no presenters, pundits or commentary. The show lasted just 20 minutes and didn’t even feature the iconic MOTD theme tune, in an embarrassing turn of events for the BBC.

Football Focus and Final Score were also taken from the air on Saturday as a result of presenters pulling out of their duties in support of Lineker, whilst football coverage on BBC Radio 5 Live was severely disrupted.

Lineker, however, will be back on the air for this weekend’s FA Cup ties.

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