Does Gary Lineker want to be a sports presenter or political pundit?: Gregory Campbell

Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker returns to his home in London with his dog.Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker returns to his home in London with his dog.
Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker returns to his home in London with his dog.
​The BBC has missed the perfect opportunity to establish if Gary Lineker wants to be a sports presenter or a political pundit, according to Gregory Campbell.

The DUP MP made his comments in response to the news that the Match of the Day host had been reinstated – following a decision to take the former England striker off air for a tweet comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum seeker policy to that of 1930s Germany.

On Monday morning, BBC Director-General Tim Davie said he recognised “the potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance” following a “difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters, and most importantly, our audiences”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Football coverage on BBC TV and radio was disrupted over the weekend as fellow pundits, presenters and reporters joined a walkout in a show of solidarity with Lineker.

Mr Campbell said it was entirely predictable that the BBC would reinstate the presenter “after he kept his head down for a while” and that there would be a review the guidelines.

“It didn’t take a great deal of foresight to work that one out but that is what has happened,” Mr Campbell said.

"The BBC has an opportunity to say to all the people who were lining up to back Gary Lineker and support him, ‘look, if you don’t like being employed by a public sector broadcaster that has impartiality guidelines written there that you can see and adhere to, if you don’t like that then please take your business elsewhere,” he told the BBC Radio’s Talkback show.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Whether it was Alan Shearer, Ian Wright, or any of the others who lined up to support Gary Lineker, they all should have been given the opportunity – ‘if that’s how you feel then take your wares elsewhere,’ but they didn’t do it.

"Now, we will see what happens in the next few weeks, and whether these new guideline make any difference, and whether Gary Lineker makes his mind up about whether he’s a political pundit or a sports commentator and reporting on football events.”

Speaking on the same programme, Alliance MP Stephen Farry said he hoped the outcome of the controversary is “a big win for free speech and for people to be able to speak their minds”.

Confirming that Lineker would return to host 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.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In his statement, 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.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

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.

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.

In a statement issued on Twitter, Lineker described the past few days as “surreal”, adding that he was “delighted we have navigated a way through this”.

In a series of tweets, Lineker also appeared to address the issue of migration again, saying his difficult weekend “doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away”.

“We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you,” he added.

In a follow-up tweet, Lineker thanked Mr Davie for his “understanding during a difficult period”.