BBC mutes football experts after asylum dispute
LONDON: Gary Lineker was ordered by the BBC to “resign” from presenting his football show on Friday after the former England star sparked a row over impartiality by criticizing the UK government’s new asylum policy.
The 62-year-old who leads the flagship game of the day Saturday program and the channel’s highest-paid presenter, this week compared the language used to introduce the new policy to the rhetoric of Nazi-era Germany.
The BBC said it considered Lineker’s “recent social media activity to be in breach of our policies”, adding that he should avoid taking sides on political issues.
“The BBC has decided that he will withdraw from the presentation game of the day until we have an agreed and clear position on his use of social media,” the broadcaster said in a statement.
The row was sparked by Lineker’s reaction on Twitter to a video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman revealed plans to stop migrants from crossing the Channel on small boats.
Lineker, the BBC’s highest-paid star at £2million a year, wrote on Twitter: “It’s not a big draw. We take in far fewer refugees than other large European countries.
“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy aimed at the weakest, in language not unlike that of Germany in the 1930s.”
The conservative government intends to ban asylum applications from all illegal arrivals and move them to other places, such as Rwanda, to prevent thousands of migrants from crossing the Channel on small boats.
Stopping the boats is the “people’s priority,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons earlier this week, also pledging to “smash up the criminal gangs” profiting from the rides.
But human rights groups and the United Nations said the legislation would make Britain an international outlaw under European and UN asylum conventions.
Lineker tweeted Thursday that he was “very much looking forward to” presenting Match of the Day on Saturday.
He previously told reporters outside his London home that he stood by his criticism of immigration policies and did not fear a suspension from the BBC.
Friday’s BBC statement described Lineker as “unmatched” in his sports presentation.
“We never said that Gary should be in a no-opinion zone or that he can’t have an opinion on issues that are important to him, but we did say that he should stay away from taking sides on partisan politics or controversies” , he added.
But shortly thereafter, former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright said he would not appear on the program to back Lineker that weekend.
“Everyone knows what game of the day means to me but I’ve told the BBC I won’t do it tomorrow,” he tweeted. “Solidarity.”
His colleague Alan Shearer, another former England striker, also said he would not be appearing on the show as many other broadcasters championed Lineker.
That’s what the BBC said game of the day would be broadcast without a moderator or experts.
“Some of our experts have said they do not wish to appear on the show while we try to resolve the situation with Gary,” a spokesman said.
“We understand their position and have decided that the program will focus on match action with no studio presentation or expert knowledge.”
BBC director general Tim Davie warned staff against using social media when he took on the role in late 2020.
Lineker is a freelance broadcaster, not a permanent employee of the BBC and not responsible for news or political content, so doesn’t have to abide by the same strict rules of impartiality.
The former Barcelona and Tottenham player has been hosting refugees at his home and has previously been vocal in his criticism of the government’s handling of migrant crossings.
He has long insisted he is free to express his political opinions as he does not work for the BBC’s news or current affairs departments.
However, in October he was found to have breached the BBC’s impartiality rules by tweeting about the Conservative Party.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch