Gary Lineker and BBC talks ‘moving in the right direction’ – reports

Gary Lineker and BBC talks ‘moving in the right direction’ – reports

Talks between the BBC and Gary Lineker are “moving in the right direction” after the broadcaster’s sports coverage suffered disruption throughout the weekend, the corporation has reported.

There “are hopes of a resolution soon, but not all issues are ‘fully resolved’ at this stage”, BBC news said.

Football coverage on BBC TV and radio shows was hit across the weekend as pundits walked out in “solidarity” with Lineker after the former England player was told to stand down from presenting Match Of The Day when he compared language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.

Match Of The Day aired for only 20 minutes on Saturday without accompanying commentary or analysis from presenters, and Sunday’s edition will run for a reduced 15 minutes.

Coverage of the Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Manchester United also aired without a pre-match presentation, and with world feed commentary used instead of regular BBC presenters.

For a second day, Radio 5 Live also replaced some of its usual live sports coverage with pre-recorded content, such as the podcast Sport’s Strangest Crimes.

The station did provide match commentary from its two scheduled Premier League games on Sunday afternoon but commentator Alistair Bruce-Ball admitted it had been a “very difficult decision” to come on air.

Ahead of the Fulham game against Arsenal, Bruce-Ball said: “It’s been a very difficult decision to make personally – I can assure you it’s not been taken lightly – but I’m a BBC staff member, I’m a radio commentator for this station and, just like yesterday, we are here to provide our football service to you, our audience.”

Former BBC director-general Mark Thompson told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme that he “absolutely hopes” and “believes” current director-general Tim Davie will survive the impartiality row surrounding Lineker.

BBC director-general Tim Davie
BBC director-general Tim Davie (Hannah McKay/PA)

Asked by Kuenssberg whether he thinks the presenter will be back on air by Sunday night, he replied: “I hope so.”

Former BBC executive Peter Salmon, who was previously controller of BBC One and director of sport, told Kuenssberg the situation is “complex” and Lineker is a “major figure”.

He described the disruption to the BBC’s sports schedule as a “mess”, adding: “Tim Davie is isolated in some ways; he needs to come home and grip this now. We need him back running the ship.”

Lineker told reporters that he “can’t say anything” as they questioned him on the future of his presenting career when he left his home in Barnes, south-west London, to walk his dog on Sunday morning.

Among the questions he faced was whether he had spoken to Mr Davie overnight, but he provided no response.

The football presenter spent his Saturday afternoon supporting his home town club Leicester City as they played Chelsea.

Leicester City v Chelsea – Premier League – King Power Stadium
Gary Lineker spent his Saturday afternoon supporting Leicester City as they played Chelsea (Mike Egerton/PA)

Mr Davie has apologised for the disruption to the sporting schedule this weekend but said he will not resign in an interview with BBC News in Washington, DC on Saturday.

BBC chairman Richard Sharp is also facing growing pressure to resign as the corporation’s policy on impartiality has been called into question.

Mr Sharp, who was appointed chairman in February 2021, has been embroiled in a cronyism row over helping former prime minister Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility in recent months.

An investigation is being undertaken into his appointment but he now faces renewed scrutiny, with both shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell questioning Mr Sharp’s position in light of the Lineker row.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also called on the chairman to resign, saying his position is “totally untenable”.

The BBC faces a strike on Wednesday when up to 1,000 journalists are expected to walk out on the same day Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to deliver his spring Budget.