Gary Lineker: BBC’s flagship football show faces boycott over impartiality

(CNN) The BBC’s weekend football coverage was thrown into chaos after it announced that Gary Lineker would ‘step back’ from presenting, after being embroiled in a line of impartiality when he criticized UK government policy on Twitter.

The broadcaster is now facing a boycott from pundits, presenters and even players of its flagship football show ‘Match of the Day’, while other football programs – Football Focus and Final Score – and some radio broadcasts were forced not to broadcast as a result. of fury.

Lineker slammed the government’s controversial new policy on asylum seekers on Tuesday and was later removed as a presenter this week since the BBC said his tweets breached their guidelines, in particular his commitment to “the impartiality required”.

The BBC’s decision has sparked controversy, leaving the organization under fire from opposition politicians, the BECTU union which represents BBC staff and its former chief executive Greg Dyke.

“The BBC will only be able to offer limited sports programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect this,” a BBC spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday.

“We are sorry for these changes which we recognize will be disappointing for BBC sports fans.

“We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.”

On Tuesday, Lineker tweeted “My God this is beyond awful” over a video posted to Twitter by Britain’s Home Office announcing the proposed new policy – an attempt to stop migrant boats crossing the English Channel from France which has been criticized by the United Nations and other world bodies.

He added: “There is no mass influx. We are taking in far fewer refugees than other major European countries. It is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that does not is no different than the one used by Germany in the 1930s, and I’m out of order?”

As Britain’s public broadcaster, the BBC is bound by ‘required impartiality’ – a much-discussed term which the organization defines as holding ‘the power to be consistently accountable’ while ‘not allowing us to be used to campaign to change public policy”.

On Friday, the BBC announced that Lineker would “relinquish presenting the Match of the Day until we have a clear and agreed stance on his use of social media”, adding that it considers his recent social media activity violated his instructions.

In response, first pundits, then commentators, then even Premier League teams announced their intention to boycott the show in support of Lineker.

BBC commentators Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen and Steven Wyeth said in a joint statement on Friday evening that “under the circumstances we do not believe it would be appropriate to take part in the programme”.

Gary Lineker is at the center of an impartiality dispute.

Jermain Defoe, a former England striker, announced on Saturday that he would not appear as a pundit on the Sunday show.

“It’s always such a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I made the decision to step back from my punditry duties. @GaryLineker,” Defoe tweeted.

Defoe’s announcement appears to be the first sign that the UK broadcaster’s Sunday TV programming will also be affected.

Meanwhile, the Association of Professional Footballers announcement Saturday that “players involved in today’s matches will not be invited to participate in interviews with Match of the Day”.

“The PFA spoke to members who wanted to take a collective stand and be able to show their support for those who chose not to be part of tonight’s program,” the statement added.

“During these conversations, we made it clear that as a union we would support all members who could face consequences if they choose not to meet their broadcast commitments. This is a common sense decision that ensures that players will no longer be placed in this position.”

Following his side’s 1-0 loss to Bournemouth on Saturday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was asked about the BBC issue.

“I don’t see any reason why they would ask anyone to step back for saying that. I don’t know if it’s a language problem or not,” the German told reporters.

“If I understand correctly, then this is a human rights opinion and it should be possible to say that.

“What I don’t understand is why everyone goes to Twitter and says something. I don’t understand the social media part, but it’s probably (because) I’m too old for that.”

A political dispute

Former BBC chief executive Greg Dyke said the broadcaster had “undermined its own credibility” by suspending Lineker because he appeared to have “bowed to government pressure”.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said the BBC got “seriously wrong on this one and are now very, very exposed”.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister tweeted“As a staunch supporter of public service broadcasting, I want to be able to defend the BBC. But the decision to take Gary Lineker off the air is indefensible. It undermines free speech in the face of political pressure – and it still seems to be right-wing pressure to which he gives in.”

Opposition Labor Party deputy leader Angela Rayner also blasted the BBC’s decision in a tweet on Saturday.

“BBC’s cowardly decision to take Gary Lineker off the air is an attack on free speech in the face of political pressure from Tory politicians. They should rethink,” she tweeted.

Meanwhile, Nadine Dorries, MP for the ruling Conservative Party and former Culture Secretary, welcomed the BBC’s decision, Tweeter“The news that Gary Lineker has been suspended for investigation is welcome and shows the BBC is serious about impartiality.

“Gary is entitled to his views – freedom of speech is paramount. Many non-public broadcasters can accommodate him and his views and he would be paid more.”

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