BBC’s popular Premier League highlights show Game of the day will air without a studio presenter or his regular roster of experts after main presenter Gary Lineker was asked to step down from coverage after violating the broadcaster’s impartiality rules on Twitter.
The BBC announced the decision to remove Lineker from the popular show on Friday afternoon after “prolonged discussions” with Lineker, during which the sports presenter was informed that his tweet comparing British government policy to Nazi Germany was unacceptable.
In response, a series of regular contributors to the show, including former footballers Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Alex Scott, announced that they would not appear on the show this weekend. With an effective strike by presenters in motion, the BBC has released a statement that this week’s episode of Game of the day would air without its regular studio segment. The episode will only contain match footage from Premier League matches.
“Some of our experts have said they do not wish to appear on the show while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary,” the BBC statement read. “We understand their position and have decided that the program will focus on match action without studio presentation or expertise.”
In the now-controversial Tweet, Lineker denounced what he described as a “beyond-horror” UK government policy aimed at preventing small boats carrying asylum seekers from arriving on UK shores.
Lineker added: “We welcome far fewer refugees than other major European countries. It is simply an immeasurably cruel policy directed against the most vulnerable people in language no different from that used by Germany in the 1930s.”
Earlier on Friday, the BBC said Lineker was sidelined while he finds out how the presenter can express his views on social media in a way consistent with society’s duty of impartiality. The news came despite Lineker announcing to his 8.7 million Twitter followers on Thursday that he would host Match of the Day as usual on Saturday. Lineker has repeatedly defended his original tweets.
Deadline reported earlier this week that BBC insiders were furious with Lineker for his “flagrant” breach of impartiality rules. Some have called for its suspension.
Lineker’s suspension has also drawn criticism of the BBC from across the political spectrum. On Friday, the opposition Labor Party said the BBC’s decision was “cowardly” and “an attack on free speech in the face of political pressure”.
Broadcaster Piers Morgan said in a Tweet that Lineker’s suspension was “pathetically spineless.”
“WTF? How pathetically spineless…I now demand that the BBC suspend all presenters who have made public comments on the news or current affairs – starting with Sir David Attenborough and Lord Sugar,” reads -on in Morgan’s Tweet.
Late Friday night, broadcasting union BECTU called Lineker’s suspension “deeply concerning”.
A statement from BECTU director Philippa Childs read: ‘This is a deeply concerning decision by the BBC. It will give the impression that they gave in to political pressure from ministers to take someone off the air because they disagree with the policies of the current government.
“Caught up with the ongoing controversy over the appointment of the chairman of the BBC, who has a far greater role in upholding the BBC’s reputation, and who has not backed down during the investigation, he also risks feel like double standards on these issues.”