Free speech

Former DG blasts BBC as Lineker row grows

Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker: claims freedom of speech

A former BBC director general has accused the corporation of losing credibility over its stand-off with football pundit Gary Lineker.

Greg Dyke stepped into the row after the BBC suspended Lineker from presenting the long-running Match of the Day programme tonight following his criticism on Twitter of the government’s policy towards asylum seekers.

His suspension prompted fellow pundits Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and Alex Scott, among others, to boycott Match of the Day and other sports programmes in support of their colleague. MoTD will be broadcast with highlights only, while Football Focus and BBC Radio Five Live Sport were pulled.

The BBC said it considered his “recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines”, adding it had been “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 row has spread to the clubs and players in a show of solidarity with the former England international.

Mr Dyke said the precedent in the BBC is that news and current affairs employees are expected to be impartial, and not the rest.

Gary Lineker is a “much-loved football reporter and presenter, but if you start applying those rules to everybody who works for the BBC, where does it end?” he asked.

“There is a long established precedent in the BBC that if you are an entertainment presenter or a sports presenter then you are not bound by those same rules,” he said.

“The real problem today is that the BBC has undermined its own credibility by doing this.”

Asked what BBC Director General Tim Davie should do, Mr Dyke said: “I don’ t know how he gets out of this.

“It’s quite clear Gary Lineker is not going to give him the assurances that he says he wants, therefore I suspect this is the end of Gary Lineker as a BBC presenter as we’ve known him, and I suspect it will have a long-term effect on Match of the Day.”

The Premier League has told the 12 clubs playing today that their players and managers will not receive requests from the BBC for Match of the Day interviews.

It has also said this to the League Managers’ Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association.

It comes after a number of players last night indicated they would not do post-match interviews with the BBC show.

Baroness Patience Wheatcroft, a crossbench peer and former editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal Europe and The Sunday Telegraph, said she agrees “with everything Gary Lineker said”.

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