BBC Reaches Deal With Gary Lineker & He Will Return To ‘Match Of The Day’ Hosting Duties This Weekend
The BBC has reached a deal with Match of the Day host Gary Lineker following crisis talks, paving the way for Lineker to return to air.
The corporation will independently review the social media guidelines relating to presenters such as Lineker, and the former England footballer has agreed to return this weekend to the show he has been hosting for almost a quarter of a century. He will host coverage of the FA Cup quarterfinal on Saturday, followed by Match of the Day, after a weekend of intense disruption.
“Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences. I apologise for this,” BBC director general Tim Davie said Monday. “The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air.”
Davie announced that the BBC will forge a review led by an independent expert on its social media guidance, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs such as Lineker.
The terms of the review will be unveiled shortly and, in the meantime, the current guidelines remain in place.
“The BBC and myself are aware that Gary is in favor of such a review,” he added. “Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend.”
Lineker, who is the BBC’s highest-paid presenter at £1.35 million ($1.62 million) per year, said he is “glad that we have found a way forward, supports this review and looks forward to getting back on air.”
In a follow-up Twitter thread, he said he is “immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world” and described the UK as a “country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people.”
“However difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away,” he added. “It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you.”
The crisis, one of the BBC’s worst for a generation, was sparked late last week when Lineker tweeted comparing the language around the government’s asylum policy with 1930s Germany.
He was stood down by the BBC, but that move caused a domino effect as other presenters, pundits and commentators on the BBC’s weekend sports programing all withdrew their services. Match of the Day and Match of the Day 2 aired as short highlights programs with no commentary, and other sports coverage was either cancelled or parred back.
The row has dominated the front pages for days and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak even weighed in.
Davie, who was in Washington speaking about impartial news, resisted calls to resign along with BBC chair Richard Sharp, although Davie apologized Saturday afternoon.
Sources indicated a “fervent” period behind the scenes during which, with Davie in Washington, chief content officer Charlotte Moore and Director of Sport Barbara Slater had to step in and were deeply involved with the negotiations.
This inevitably led to time delays, while there were rifts between the newsroom, which backed Davie, and the sports division, which backed Lineker.
Many BBC execs had hoped to have the situation resolved to avoid yesterday’s second day of major disruption.
One source close to the negotiations said multiple BBC departments have aired frustrations with the BBC News team for having amplified the story.
“There will be a lot of recrimination behind the scenes once the dust settles and this has gone from the public eye,” said the source.
Several staff meetings are expected to take place later today.
The crisis has come at a difficult time for the BBC, which has only just been recovering from the fallout of the revelation that Sharp, a former Conservative Party donor, helped facilitate a loan for former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Prior to the Lineker row, he had spent weeks resisting calls to resign on that front.
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Broadcasting union Bectu, which has already called on Sharp to resign, said its members will “continue to draw a comparison between their treatment and that of Richard Sharp” if he stays in post.
“The Director General’s assertion that its guidance should be proportionate and appropriate is missing the fundamental ingredient – any guidance must be applied consistently across all levels of the organisation,” added Bectu head Philippa Childs. “The lack thereof is what has led to so much of the ill feeling from BBC staff and the public.”
Childs also noted “the resounding silence from the Chairman throughout all of this.” She urged the BBC to involve the unions with the new social media framework.