Gary Lineker: Presenters boycott BBC show

The BBC is facing a growing staff boycott after the controversial decision to take host Gary Lineker off Match of the Day.

A number of BBC football shows across TV and radio have been taken off air after presenters pulled out in “solidarity” with Lineker, who was removed by the BBC in a row over impartiality.

Final Score and Football Focus were pulled from BBC One on Saturday after their respective hosts, Jason Mohammad and Alex Scott, said they would not host their shows.

BBC 5 Live’s Fighting Talk also did not air on Saturday morning for what host Colin Murray said were “obvious reasons”.

Lineker is stepping back from Match Of The Day (MOTD) until an “agreed and clear position” on his social media use is made, the BBC said on Friday, after he compared the language used to launch a new government asylum policy with 1930s Germany.

The boycott began when former Arsenal striker and pundit Ian Wright said he will not take part in Saturday’s Match of the Day programme in “solidarity” with Lineker, while former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer later announced he would also not be taking part in the show.

Former Arsenal and England defender Scott ruled herself out of presenting Saturday’s Match of the Day, by tweeting: “FYI…” and a GIF which quotes “Nah! Not me”.

MOTD regulars Micah Richards and Jermaine Jenas also said they would not be appearing on this weekend’s show.

A BBC spokesperson said: “Some of our pundits have said that they don’t wish to appear on the programme while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary.

“We understand their position and we have decided that the programme will focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry.”

The BBC’s MOTD commentators have also decided not to work for the programme in a show of support for Lineker. Steve Wilson tweeted: “As commentators on MOTD, we have decided to step down from tomorrow night’s broadcast. We are comforted that football fans who want to watch their teams should still be able to do so, as management can use World Feed commentary if they wish.

“However, in the circumstances, we do not feel it would be appropriate to take part in the programme.”

Premier League players will not be asked to do interviews for the BBC’s Match of the Day on Saturday.

Instead, players will do interviews for BBC Radio.

A spokesman for the Professional Footballers Association said: “We have been informed that players involved in today’s games will not be asked to participate in interviews with Match of the Day.

“The PFA have been speaking to members who wanted to take a collective position and to be able to show their support for those who have chosen not to be part of tonight’s programme.

“During those conversations we made clear that, as their union, we would support all members who might face consequences for choosing not to complete their broadcast commitments.

“This is a common sense decision that ensures players won’t now be put in that position.”

Earlier on Friday, the BBC said Lineker will not present the show until an agreement is reached on his social media use, after he was embroiled in a row over impartiality by comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum policy with 1930s Germany.

The corporation said in a statement it has been in “extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days”.

“We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines,” the statement added.

“The BBC has decided that he 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 statement continued: “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.”

It comes after the presenter, 62, said on Thursday that he would be presenting Match of the Day on Saturday as usual after several days of intense criticism over his Twitter posts.

A tweet from Lineker had suggested he was not reprimanded by the BBC for his comments about the government’s new small boats policy despite criticism from some politicians.

“Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days,” he wrote on Thursday. “Happy that this ridiculously out of proportion story seems to be abating and very much looking forward to presenting @BBCMOTD on Saturday.

“Thanks again for all your incredible support. It’s been overwhelming.”

Lineker has faced criticism from Downing Street, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who accused him of “diminishing the unspeakable tragedy” of the Holocaust, while former cabinet minister and Conservative MP Nadine Dorries welcomed the BBC’s decision, writing in a tweet: “It shows BBC are serious about impartiality.”

However, support has come from media figures including Piers Morgan and Sky News commentator Adam Boulton.

Labour has condemned the BBC’s “cowardly decision” to stand Lineker down. A Labour source said: “The BBC’s cowardly decision to take Gary Lineker off air is an assault on free speech in the face of political pressure.

“Tory politicians lobbying to get people sacked for disagreeing with Government policies should be laughed at, not pandered to. The BBC should rethink their decision.”

Sky Sports