Gary Lineker to step back from MOTD after criticising UK asylum policy

Lineker previously said he was 'not fearful' of any suspension after criticising the Government's plans.

Gary Lineker is to step back from presenting Match of the Day, the BBC has announced.

The commentator will be removed “until an agreement is reached on his social media use”, a spokesperson said.

Lineker drew backlash from Conservative ministers for his criticism of the government’s policy for asylum seekers, in which he likened the language of the Government to that of Germany in the 1930s.

The broadcaster previously said he was “not fearful” of any suspension for his comments and said he stood by his critique of the Government policy.

The BBC later confirmed that no presenters or pundits will feature on Saturday’s Match of the Day programme, after other pundits refused to present in solidarity with Lineker.

Saturday’s Match of the Day programme will “focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry”, a spokesperson said.

The announcement from the BBC has divided opinion with fellow MOTD pundit Ian Wright confirming he won’t be appearing on the show on Saturday night in solidarity with Lineker.

“Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity,” he tweeted.

He was followed by others including pundit Alan Shearer who said he will also not appear on tomorrow’s MOTD programme.

“I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night,” he tweeted.

Micah Richards later tweeted: “”I was not due to be working on MOTD tomorrow, but if I was, I would find myself taking the same decision that @IanWright0 & @alanshearer have.”

Jermaine Jenas said: “I wasn’t down to be doing Match of the Day tomorrow, but if I was I would of said no and stood with my fellow pundits and @GaryLineker.” 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also condemned the actions of the BBC and branded them “indefensible”.

The BBC has also been criticised by the National Union of Journalists. In a statement, the union said: “Yielding to sustained political pressure in this way is as foolish as it is dangerous.”

However, Conservative MPs including former cultural secretary Nadine Dorries, welcomed the BBC action.

She said it shows the BBC are “serious about impartiality”.

She added: “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.”

The 62-year-old 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.”

Lineker also tweeted this week that he was looking forward to returning to his presenting duties on MOTD.

He said: “Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days. Happy that this ridiculously out of proportion story seems to be abating and very much looking forward to presenting @BBCMOTD on Saturday. Thanks again for all your incredible support. It’s been overwhelming.”

Lineker is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent member of staff, and is not responsible for news or political content so does not need to adhere to the same rules on impartiality.

The BBC has also been embroiled in another controversy over impartiality after chairman Richard Sharp kept his job despite helping to land former Prime Minister Boris Johnson an £800,000 loan.

Regarding Lineker, a BBC spokesperson said: “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.”

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