BBC cancel Football Focus as more presenters pull out over Lineker row

The lunchtime show has been replaced by Bargain Hunt after Alex Scott pulled out.

BBC cancel Football Focus as more presenters pull out over Gary Lineker row Getty Images

The BBC’s lunchtime show Football Focus will not be broadcast on Saturday as the row over Gary Lineker has deepened.

Football Focus presenter Alex Scott has said that she will not present the magazine programme as a gesture of support for Lineker , and sports presenter kelly Somers denied that she would step in for Scott. The BBC has now confirmed the programme will be replaced by Bargain Hunt in the schedule.

Jason Mohammed has joined the boycott of BBC football shows, saying that he will not take up his regular place presenting Final Score. The broadcast schedule has now been changed with Final Score being replaced with an episode of the Repair Shop.

He tweeted that the show is “very close to my heart”.

“However – I have this morning informed the BBC that I will not be presenting the show this afternoon on BBC One.”

Services in Scotland were also affected. A statement from the organisation read: “Sportscene will run this evening on BBC One Scotland and BBC Scotland, with an amended format similar to current plans for Match of the Day.

“Some of the Sportsound slot on Radio Scotland was replaced by pre-recorded material.

“We are sorry for these changes which we recognise will be disappointing for BBC Sport fans. We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.”

The broadcaster had announced on Friday that Lineker would “step back” from presenting Match of the Day  “until an agreement is reached on his social media use”.

On Saturday afternoon, the BBC apologised for disruption to their planned coverage.

A brief statement read: “The BBC will only be able to bring limited sport programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that.

“We are sorry for these changes which we recognise will be disappointing for BBC sport fans.

“We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.”

The former England striker drew backlash from Conservative ministers for tweets that criticised the government’s policy for asylum seekers, in which he likened the language of the Government to that of Germany in the 1930s.

Regular Match of the Day pundits Ian Wright and Alan Shearer said that they were boycotting Saturday’s programme in solidarity with their colleague and the corporation has said that the show will broadcast highlights of Saturday’s Premier League action without studio presentation or analysis.

Wright has since said on his Wrighty’s House podcast that if the BBC decides to permanently end its association with Lineker, he would also end his time on the flagship sports programme.

He said: “I’ll tell you something. If they do – the BBC get rid of Gary Lineker – I’m out, I’m gone. I’m not staying there. On his own platform he should be able to say what he wants to say.

“He wrote a tweet criticising the government about everything that’s happening, the human rights issues and everything here and it’s the perfect distraction for this government, man.

“Gary’s tweet was the headline news, bro.

“They need Gary Lineker to distract everybody because for me it is a human issue, it’s not political.

“They’ve got no empathy. The most vulnerable ones are always the ones that suffer, they’re the ones that suffer and it starts with words.”

The Professional Football Association has said that its members may not give post-match interviews to the BBC on Saturday and a growing number of English clubs have said that they will support any players or staff who decide not to cooperate with the broadcaster.

Reports on Saturday morning have also suggested that the BBC’s radio coverage could be in danger of further disruption as more freelance employees decide not to work.

BBC presenter Colin Murray said in a tweet, of 5 Live’s Fighting Talk not airing: “No @FightingTalk316 today, for obvious reasons.

“In the interest of transparency, this was a decision taken by the entire FT team and myself.”

Football pundit Dion Dublin said: “In Solidarity with my BBC Sport colleagues No 5live for me today!”.

Sports reporter Marc Webber tweeted: “As Final Score reporters, we have decided to stand down from our duties today in solidarity with Gary Lineker. As a result, no Final Score will be broadcast today.

“We all love the BBC and are proud to work for such a great broadcaster.

“More importantly, we consider it an absolute honour to keep people up to date on football on a Saturday at 3pm. A lot of work had already gone into today’s show. Many of us are freelancers -only paid per game. We have made a salary sacrifice today.

“But I can’t stand by and see a colleague unsupported like this for a personal opinion which did not break BBC Editorial Guidelines. Please also be kind to other BBC Sport colleagues who will still be working because they will not have the luxury of choice we have.”

Lineker spoke out after home secretary Suella Braverman announced her “stop the boats” policy which included the removal of anti-slavery protection laws for those who enter the UK under illegal routes.

He later said his criticism has generated “love and support” from many who shared his stance.

He said: “I want to thank each and every one of you. It means a lot. I’ll continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice. Cheers all.”

The BBC’s announcement on Friday brought criticism from many, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon branding the decision as “indefensible”.

She tweeted: “As a strong supporter of public service broadcasting, I want to be able to defend the BBC. But the decision to take Gary Lineker off air is indefensible. It is undermining free speech in the face of political pressure – & it does always seem to be rightwing pressure it caves to.”

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who also presents a show on Talk TV, said: “Gary is entitled to his views- free speech is paramount. Lots of non Public Service Broadcasters can accommodate him and his views and he would be better paid.”

BBC director-general Tim Davie was asked by BBC News why Lineker had not been sacked if the corporation believed he had broken social media guidelines.

He said:  “Well I think we always look to take proportionate action and that’s what we’ve done.”

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