Gary Lineker row: Match of the Day to have no presenter or pundits and Football Focus and Final Score axed
BBC pulls Football Focus and Final Score off air as Lineker row intensifies
Match of the Day will have no presenters or pundits when it airs on Saturday evening, while the BBC's Football Focus and Final Score episodes have been axed at the last minute as the fallout continues to the Gary Lineker row.
Pundits Alan Shearer and Ian Wright announced on Friday their boycott of this weekend’s highlights programme after the BBC said it had “decided” Lineker would take a break from presenting the show until an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media had been reached.
Fellow former England internationals Micah Richards, Alex Scott and Jermaine Jenas – who were all not due to appear this weekend on MOTD – backed their fellow pundits.
In response, 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.”
A group of BBC commentators including Steve Wilson, Connor McNamara and Simon Brotherton also announced they would not participate in the programme.
A joint statement read: “As commentators on MOTD, we have decided to step down from tomorrow night’s broadcast. We know 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.”
Lineker, 62, has been embroiled in a row over impartiality after comparing the language used to launch a new Government asylum policy with 1930s Germany on Twitter.
Earlier, director-general at the BBC Tim Davie – who warned staff about their use of social media when he took on the role at the end of 2020 before guidelines on their use was updated – was asked by BBC News why Lineker had not been sacked.
Davie replied: “Well I think we always look to take proportionate action and that’s what we’ve done.”
He said he would not “add to” the corporation’s current statement on the matter, but that there had been “very constructive discussions”.
Reacting to Shearer and Wright’s boycott, the BBC boss added: “I absolutely respect people’s right to make that decision, and BBC Sport have to look at the programme they will produce for the weekend as normal.”
Announcing the decision regarding Lineker on Friday, a spokesperson for the BBC said the broadcaster had 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.”
While on air, Channel 5 News presenter Dan Walker said Lineker had told him “(the BBC) told me I have to step back” and he “is not apologising for what he’s said”.
The row was sparked by Lineker’s response on Twitter to a Home Office video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the Government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.
The ex-England striker wrote: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.
“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”
On Saturday morning, Alex Scott said she will not be hosting Football Focus at lunchtime as it “doesn’t feel right”, amid reports the BBC had pulled the show.
Kelly Somers also confirmed she will not be presenting any BBC show on Saturday, after former England footballers and MOTD regulars Alan Shearer and Ian Wright announced they would be boycotting the programme in solidarity with Lineker.
On Friday evening several of the show’s commentators shared a joint statement online, announcing they would also be stepping down from Saturday’s broadcast.
BBC football presenter and former England player Scott wrote on Twitter: “I made a decision last night that even though I love my show and we have had an incredible week winning an SJA for football focus that it doesn’t feel right for me to go ahead with the show today.
“Hopefully I will be back in the chair next week.”
Somers tweeted: “Just to confirm I won’t be on BBC television today.”