Gary Lineker jokes he has had a ‘quiet week’ as he pays tribute to friends and BBC colleagues in first TV appearance since ‘disproportionate’ row with the broadcaster ahead of his return to presenting Match of The Day
- Gary Lineker will return to Match of the Day after suspension by BBC last week
- The 62-year-old says he has had an ‘interesting’ and also ‘hugely gratifying’ week
- Lineker also described support from BBC colleagues and friends as ‘beautiful’
Gary Lineker has described the past week – in which he was stood down from presenting Match of the Day before being reinstated days later – as ‘interesting’ and ‘gratifying’.
Lineker will return to present Match of the Day on Saturday after initially being suspended in an impartiality row after anti-Tory tweets equating the language of the Government’s crackdown on migrants in small boats to Germany in the 1930s.
The suspension resulted in commentators and pundits pulling out from the famous football highlights programme, which ran at just 20 minutes with no discussion in Lineker’s absence, in solidarity.
BBC Director General Tim Davie, who is facing calls to resign, apologised to staff, presenters, viewers and listeners, after sporting coverage was decimated last weekend.
Joking about his ‘quiet week’ live on air ahead of Barcelona’s derby match against Real Madrid, Lineker paid tribute to his BBC colleagues and friends for their support before describing the row as ‘disproportionate’.
Gary Lineker (right) addressed his row with the BBC live on air on Viaplay on Friday evening
Lineker says he has had an ‘interesting’ and also hugely ‘gratifying’ week following BBC row
Match of the Day ran at just 20 minutes with no punditry or commentary last Saturday with Lineker stood down and many of his BBC colleagues electing to go on strike in solidarity
‘Really quiet, nothing much going on,’ Lineker joked, when asked how his week has been by Viaplay.
‘Yeah, you could say it’s been an interesting week but I’m still here, still punching.
‘It was interesting and also hugely gratifying. I had an amazing amount of support from my friends and colleagues which was quite beautiful actually.
‘It was totally disproportionate the whole thing but we’re OK. It is resolved. I’m back to work tomorrow and all is well with the world.’
Davie insisted there will be a review of the broadcaster’s impartiality policy in the aftermath of the row, and that Lineker will abide by the guidance while this takes place.
In a statement, the Director General said: ‘Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences.
‘I apologise for this. 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.
BBC director general Tim Davie backed down from the row and asked Lineker to return to TV
‘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.’
Lineker’s two trusted side-kicks on Match of the Day, Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, began a wider boycott, including commentators, which forced management’s hand.
Football Focus and Final Score were axed last Saturday, while the BBC’s radio output and Match of the Day 2 were also impacted.
Alex Scott and Mark Chapman were among presenters to have pulled out of shows.
Both Wright and Shearer appeared on the Premier League’s television coverage of Fulham vs Arsenal on Sunday.
Ian Wright was the first person to pull out of Match of the Day in support of Gary Lineker
Alan Shearer, centre, and Wright, right, will not face any punishment for their boycott
Sportsmail understands that those who walked out in support of Lineker will face no action from BBC bosses.
Lineker said on Monday he ‘cannot wait’ to be back on the BBC this weekend but was defiant in the face of criticism, suggesting some of his detractors are intolerant.
He tweeted: ‘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.
‘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’.
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