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Gary Lineker: BBC’s ‘MOTD’ pundits, commentators refuse to work in support of suspended presenter

BBC Broadcasting House in London.

The BBC’s weekend football coverage turned chaotic as the commentators refused to work in support of presenter Gary Linekar.

The BBC temporarily suspended Linekar after the former England captain criticised the government’s new migration policy. The 62-year-old took to Twitter to compare the language used to launch the new policy to that of Nazi-era Germany, which the BBC said on Friday was a “breach of our guidelines”.

The English broadcaster announced that football player-turned-presenter Linekar would “step back” from presenting “Match of the Day” – a Saturday night show, which has been airing since 1964 and is the longest-running football television programme in the world. The BBC said it would take Linekar back when he clears his position on his use of social media.

“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. 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,” the BBC said on Friday in a statement.

Linekar’s suspension news did not go down well with both people from football and outside of it as the former Leicester City striker not only received massive public support but also some of his colleagues announced they would not appear on the “Match of the Day” show without him. This saw BBC’s sports service in television and radio output in chaos.

Former England strikers Ian Wright and Alan Shearer tweeted that they would not continue their usual roles on the “Match of the Day” show on the BBC in a bid to show support for Linekar and they were also followed by the programme’s commentators to do the same.

With an effective strike by its on-screen staff and BBC unable to find willing replacements, the English broadcaster, later on, announced that the Premier League highlights programme would go ahead without any hosts or studio presentation. It will feature only match footages.

“Some of our pundits have said that they don’t wish to appear on the programme while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary. We understand their position and we have decided that the programme will focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry,” a BBC spokesperson said, according to The Guardian.

It is understood that Conservative Party members of parliament called on the BBC to punish Lineker after he tweeted that the government‘s plan to detain and deport asylum seekers arriving by boat was “an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.”

“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 a language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?” Linekar had tweeted.

While Lineker is yet to make an official comment on his suspension by the BBC, one of his former BBC colleagues, Dan Walker, said he had been in touch with Lineker. When Walker asked Lineker “whether he is stepping back or whether the BBC have told him to step back.”

Walker said Lineker replied to him that the BBC “told me I have to step back.

“So Gary Lineker wants to continue to present “Match Of The Day” and is not apologising for what he has said but he has said it’s a BBC decision to force him to not present the program at the moment,” Walker said on Channel 5, where he works.

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