Because of the dispute over a tweet by Gary Lineker on British migration policy, the ex-star striker will no longer appear as a football presenter on the BBC for the time being. The 62-year-old is leaving his job until he has reached an agreement with the public broadcaster about his use of social media, the BBC said on Friday. That is the result of the talks with Lineker in the last few days.
Lineker’s recent comments on Twitter are “a violation of our policies.” The broadcaster urged the former England international to “refrain from taking sides on partisan issues or political controversies”. At the same time, the BBC also stressed that Lineker was “unmatched in leading our football and sports coverage”. Co-host Ian Wright, also an ex-footballer, announced he would also be off screen over the weekend in solidarity with Lineker. Alan Shearer, like Lineker’s ex-forward, did the same for Wright.
Lineker, who has presented BBC’s Match of the Day since 1999, tweeted that the language the Conservative government was using to promote its controversial asylum legislation was “not unlike Germany in the 1930s.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Interior Minister Suella Braverman reacted with outrage. Several Conservative MPs called on the BBC to part ways with Lineker. Both support and criticism of Lineker were read on social media.
The British government wants to first hold migrants who enter the country without official permission in shelters and then expel them to Rwanda or other countries. The right to apply for asylum should be taken away from them. The plans could violate the European Convention on Human Rights. Interior Minister Braverman had spoken of an “invasion” in view of the increasing number of people who came into the country unwanted via the English Channel. Critics accuse her and other members of the government of fueling hatred against foreigners with their language.
The BBC is committed to strict neutrality. Lineker, who has around 8.6 million followers on Twitter, has repeatedly criticized the Conservative government. The ex-forward is the highest-paid BBC presenter with a base salary of £1.35m (€1.51m). He works for the station on a freelance basis.