Presenter off show over Twitter impartiality row

gary lineker motd

Gary Lineker presenting MOTD

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker is to step back from the veteran football show after 24 years following this week’s Twitter impartiality row.

The shock news comes after Lineker tweeted yesterday that he was “very much looking forward” to presenting tomorrow’s Match of the Day (MOTD) and suggested the “ridiculously out of proportion” story was abating.

However the BBC said in a statement: ”The BBC 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 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.

“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.”

The row started on Tuesday when the presenter tweeted that the language used in the government’s immigration plans was “not dissimilar” to that used by “Germany in the 30s”.

Despite being “spoken to” by director general Tim Davie over the comments, Lineker vowed to continue to “speak up for those poor souls that have no voice”.

His comments created a media storm over the extent to which a freelance sports presenter is obliged to adhere to the BBC’s due impartiality rules. High- profile figures including Piers Morgan, Carol Vorderman and former Sky News presenter Adam Boulton spoke out in his defence and Lineker thanked the general public for their “incredible support”.

It is not yet known who will cover Lineker’s lead presenting role in tomorrow night’s programme. Fellow presenter Ian Wright has tweeted: ”Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.” Alan Shearer, often the third presenter alongside Lineker and Wright, also said he would not be presenting the flagship football show tomorrow: ”I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night,” Shearer tweeted.

Lineker, the former England and Leicester City player, began presenting Match of the Day in 1999, having previously operated as a pundit on the show.

The outspoken presenter, who was paid £1.35m over the 2021-22 financial year, has been rapped for due impartiality breaches previously throughout his long career, as recently as October when he tweeted about Russian donations to the Conservative Party.

Last year, the BBC allowed him to begin opening coverage of the Qatar World Cup with a monologue that addressed corruption, treatment of migrant workers, homosexuality, women’s rights, and freedom of expression.

He later explained that he felt “sportswashed” while presenting the previous World Cup in Russia and should “probably have spoken out more” about human rights issues.

Lineker has often hit the headlines. In January, he was the victim of a prank in which pornographic sounds were broadcast live during MOTD. Lineker appeared on BBC2’s Newsnight later to laugh off the incident as the BBC apologised. In August 2016, he presented the first MOTD of the season wearing only boxer shorts, after promising to do so if Leicester City won the Premier League.