One of BBC’s most well-paid presenter, former footballer Gary Linekar has been told by the station to take a step back from presenting its flagship Match of the Day programme until an agreement was reached on his use of social media to support political campaigns.
Lineker has hosted Match of the Day for more than 20 years and is reported to earn about £1.35m annually.
While the BBC presenter has been vocal on several issues on social media, his comments became particularly political after Brexit and his recent comparison of the British government’s immigration policy to Nazi Germany raised eyebrows.
Reacting to plans announced by Home Secretary Suella Braverman this week which seeks to ban those who come to Britain illegally from ever claiming asylum there, Linekar tweeted it was an: “immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.
However, the Home Secretary hit back saying Lineker’s comment ‘diminished the unspeakable tragedy’ of what the Nazi Holocaust.
She also said out on a BBC podcast that her husband was Jewish and argued Linekar’s comparison was “lazy and unhelpful”.
The BBC said that it considered the footballer’s “recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines”.
It believes he must “keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies”.
The public broadcaster said it had reached the decision after “extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days”.
“[H]e will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media”, the BBC said.
“When it comes to leading our football and sports coverage, Gary is second to none.
“We have never said that Gary should be an opinion free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.”
While #ImWithGary trended on Twitter, and fellow presenters Ian Wright and Alan Shearer said they would refuse to present the popular programme in protest, there was a clash of opinions elsewhere.
‘Why on earth should we be paying for him to give us his opinions?’
Nana Akua clashes with former Head of Religion and Ethics at the BBC, Aaqil Ahmed, over the BBC’s stance on Gary Lineker after it was announced the presenter will be stepping back from Match of the Day. pic.twitter.com/EajsP5lcbJ
— GB News (@GBNEWS) March 10, 2023
Others took the opportunity to make a point on immigration – or to laugh at the whole controversy.
Now Gary Linekar has a lot of spare time on his hands he can takes refugees into his home and look after them 😃😃😃👍
— Mervyn #KBF (@MervusP30) March 10, 2023
Match of the Day has been going nearly as long as Gary Lineker’s been alive. Now thanks to his arrogance and refusal to stick by his £1.4m contract, the show’s in jeopardy and tainted by political toxicity. Precisely why BBC staff agree to impartiality in the first place…
— Ben Leo (@benleo444) March 10, 2023
Suella Braverman hosting Match of the Day this weekend. ⚽️🥲#MOTD #garylineker #ianwright #alanshearer pic.twitter.com/oMevslrucv
— Munya Chawawa (@munyachawawa) March 10, 2023