'Delighted' Gary Lineker tweets about migrants as he gets his job back - with BBC forced to issue grovelling apology

13 March 2023, 09:57 | Updated: 13 March 2023, 17:42

Gary Lineker has been allowed back on air after posting controversial tweets critical of the government
Gary Lineker has been allowed back on air after posting controversial tweets critical of the government. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Gary Lineker is to return to presenting sport after he was taken off air for tweets that compared the government's language on migration to that used in 1930s Germany.

The BBC also issued an apology to viewers and to presenters, and announced a review of its social media policy in an extraordinary climbdown this morning.

Gary, the BBC’s highest-paid star on £1.35million a year, said: “I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”

Lineker added on Twitter: "After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity.

"Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming. I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost 3 decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world.

"I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday.

"A final thought: 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.

Gary Lineker pictured walking his dog in West London yesterday
Gary Lineker pictured walking his dog in West London yesterday. Picture: Alamy

"It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you. We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you."

Lineker went on to thank the director general of the BBC, Tim Davie, writing on Twitter: "Also, I’d like to thank Tim Davie for his understanding during this difficult period.

"He has an almost impossible job keeping everybody happy, particularly in the area of impartiality. I am delighted that we’ll continue to fight the good fight, together."

Mr Davie said: “Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences. I apologise for this.

Read more: There are direct parallels between Illegal Migration Bill and 1930's Germany, Holocaust survivor says

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"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.

“Impartiality is important to the BBC. It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression.

"That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles.

"The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate.

“Accordingly, we are announcing a review led by an independent expert – reporting to the BBC – on its existing social media guidance, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs.

"The BBC and myself are aware that Gary is in favour of such a review.

“Shortly, the BBC will announce who will conduct that review. Whilst this work is undertaken, the BBC’s current social media guidance remains in place.

“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.”

On Sunday Disruption of the BBC’s sports coverage continued for a second day after his co-hosts also boycotted shows. On Sunday evening, BBC News reported that talks between the corporation and Lineker were "moving in the right direction" but not all issues had been "fully resolved".

On Friday The BBC announced that Lineker would ‘step back’ from presenting Match of the Day until there was an ‘agreed and clear position’ on his social media use.

He tweeted days earlier that the language used by the government was similar to that of 1930s Germany, sparking a huge row.

Ian Wright and Alan Shearer pulled out of Match of the Day in solidarity, before the disruption spread across the whole of The BBC’s Sports output.

Football Focus, Final Score and football coverage on 5 Live were pulled from the air, while BBC One’s Match of the Day was only 20 minutes long with no commentary or punditry.

BBC Director General Tim Davie apologised for the impact of the row on sports coverage but said he would not resign over it.

Lineker, 62, was taken off air for a tweet comparing the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.

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