Gary Lineker taken off Match of the Day as he's 'unwilling to apologise' over migrant comments

10 March 2023, 16:45 | Updated: 10 March 2023, 20:21

Gary Lineker has been taken of Match of the Day
Gary Lineker has been taken of Match of the Day. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Gary Lineker has been taken off Match of the Day until an agreement is reached over his social media use.

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He will not return until there is "an agreed and clear position on his use of social media", a spokesperson said.

However, a source close to Mr Lineker said he had not agreed to "step back" and was instead removed as he is "unwilling to apologise for his comments" on the government's controversial asylum policy.

Pundits Ian Wright and Alan Shearer have since said they will not be appearing on Match of the Day on Saturday in "solidarity" with the presenter.

Micah Richards and Jermaine Jenas, who regularly appear on the programme but were not due to appear in the upcoming show both said they wouldn't have taken part if they were.

Lineker's original tweet
Lineker's original tweet. Picture: Social media

Lineker criticised the government in a series of tweets earlier in the week, comparing language used by MPs to "that used by Germany in the 30s".

Read more: Gary Lineker hits back after Suella Braverman brands his asylum policy remarks 'irresponsible'

Read more: Gary Lineker needs to study the history books, Foreign Secretary says after football pundit's criticism of migrant plan

The row was sparked by his response on Twitter to a Home Office video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the government's plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.

The ex-England striker wrote: "There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.

"This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the '30s."

The tweets enraged Tory MPs, with him facing criticism from Downing Street, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Ms Braverman, who accused him of "diminishing the unspeakable tragedy" of the Holocaust.

Lineker will not be on Match of the Day
Lineker will not be on Match of the Day. Picture: Alamy

Labour has condemned the "cowardly decision" to stand Lineker down from hosting duties.

A party source said: "The BBC's cowardly decision to take Gary Lineker off air is an assault on free speech in the face of political pressure.

"Tory politicians lobbying to get people sacked for disagreeing with Government policies should be laughed at, not pandered to. The BBC should rethink their decision."

A statement read: "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."

Lineker tweeted on Thursday that he was "very much looking forward" to presenting Match Of The Day on Saturday.

He previously said that he stood by his criticism of the immigration policy and did not fear suspension.

Several people have rallied behind the presenter after it was confirmed he would not be on air.

Ian Wright tweeted: "Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity."

Retired England goalkeeper Ben Foster backed Wright's decision, replying: "Heck yes Wrighty."

Alan Shearer also backed out from making an appearance, tweeting: "I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night."

Alex Scott also hinted that she would not be appearing on the show this week, sharing a gif on Twitter.

Lineker was criticising Suella Braverman's migrant plan
Lineker was criticising Suella Braverman's migrant plan. Picture: Alamy

Presenter Richard Osman said the decision to remove Lineker was "pathetic for so many reasons".

Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville tweeted: "When you take on the Tories and the system! Awful people who we need gone."

Former Blue Peter presenter Simon Thomas tweeted: "I wonder what the end result would have been had @GaryLineker Tweeted his whole hearted support for the Government's immigration policy & had used the same inflammatory words like 'invasion' that were deployed by @SuellaBraverman?

"This (100 emoji) would not have been the end result."

This story is being updated

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