The BBC’s Premier League exit is in freefall as mutinous presenters and pundits stage a protest against Gary Lineker’s suspension.
The British broadcaster took the unprecedented step of removing Lineker on Friday afternoon over a politically charged tweet, but the decision backfired in spectacular fashion.
In a breathless few hours on Saturday, BBC TV and radio production was left in tatters after a series of stars showed their solidarity with Lineker by refusing to work. Here is what happened :
- BBC1 shows Soccer focus And Final score have been replaced by repetitions of Bargain hunting And THE Repair workshop after hosts Alex Scott and Jason Mohammad joined the protest.
- On Saturday at noon UK time, the BBC planned to air a flagship Premier League highlights show Game of the day without presenters, pundits and commentators, but insiders increasingly believe it could collapse. “I don’t see how it’s going to come out tonight,” said one.
- The BBC Radio 5 Live program was erased as live sports coverage was replaced by podcast repeats. Colin Murray and Mark Chapman were among the presenters who did not show up.
- Premier League players will not give interviews to the BBC on Saturday after indicating they wanted to boycott Game of the day in support of Lineker.
- Lineker hasn’t even commented on his suspension yet. He was filmed leaving his house on Saturday, but only waved to the crowd of press camped outside his property.
- A petition calling for Lineker’s reinstatement by the BBC has garnered over 150,000 signatures.
The events are unprecedented and unsustainable, stemming from a single tweet, in which Lineker compared government rhetoric on asylum seekers to Nazi Germany.
The BBC said the tweet breached social media rules on impartiality, but sources close to Lineker, the company’s highest-paid presenter, said he backed the message’s accuracy and did not disagree. would not excuse.
BBC journalists are held to a higher standard of impartiality than non-informant presenters like Lineker, although all have been told their social media activity “may affect the perception of the BBC’s impartiality”.
Lineker was deemed to have breached BBC impartiality rules last October after he tweeted his views on the Conservative Party accepting donations from Russia. The BBC said Lineker had an “additional responsibility” because of his notoriety and reminded him that employees should “avoid taking sides on party politics or political controversies”.
Announcing Lineker’s suspension on Friday, the BBC said: “The BBC has had extensive discussions with Gary and his team over the past few days. We said we consider his recent social media activity a violation of our guidelines.
“The BBC has decided that he will refrain from presenting Match of the Day until we have a clear and agreed position on his use of social media.
“When it comes to directing our coverage of football and sports, Gary is second to none. We have never said Gary should be an opinion free zone, or that he cannot have an opinion on issues that matter to him, but we said he should refrain from taking sides on party politics or political controversies.”