Gary Lineker has received an influx of support from fellow sports pundits, broadcasters and famous faces following the news that he will return to his Match Of The Day presenting duties this weekend.
The 62-year-old was taken off air last week for a tweet comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.
Following the news that the former England footballer will return to his role at the BBC, ex-presenter Dan Walker and former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville were among those appearing to poke fun at the BBC’s U-turn.
Unnecessary fixture decided by an own goal
— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) March 13, 2023
“Unnecessary fixture decided by an own goal,” Walker tweeted.
Sky Sports pundit Neville was amused by the fact BBC Director-General Tim Davie had apologised to Lineker, tweeting the word “apology” with two laughing emojis.
Current MOTD commentator Conor McNamara, who was one of a number of BBC Sports pundits to pull out of their regular presenting roles over the weekend in solidarity with Lineker, tweeted: “Now… can we go back to arguing about VAR?”
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) March 13, 2023
Fellow MOTD presenter Steve Wilson also shared his response to the resolution, tweeting: “So delighted that there’s a resolution.
“I can now get on with prep for games this week which include trips to Molineux and Bramall Lane for the BBC.”
So delighted that there’s a resolution. I can now get on with prep for games this week which include trips to Molineux and Bramall Lane for the BBC.
— Steve Wilson (@Wilsonfooty) March 13, 2023
Former BBC news executive Sir Craig Oliver also commented on the weekend’s sporting schedule “chaos”, saying the corporation made the “wrong choice” when it asked Lineker to step back, which led to other BBC sports staff refusing to do their shows.
“I think it’s a total mess,” he added
Sir Craig, who was later the Downing Street communications chief when David Cameron was prime minister, told BBC News: “I think what’s happened here is Gary Lineker 1 – BBC credibility nil.
Now… can we go back to arguing about VAR?
— Conor McNamara (@ConorMcNamaraIE) March 13, 2023
“The reality is the BBC today has announced it will have a review of its social media guidelines. In fact, it needs a review of how it handles crisis like these.”
Elsewhere on social media, Lineker’s eldest son, George, tweeted a goat emoji – often used to signify G.O.A.T, meaning Greatest Of All Time for sportspeople – in response to the news that his father would be returning to his BBC presenting duties.
Comedians Nish Kumar and Dara O Briain shared their thoughts, with Kumar tweeting: “One of the best things about the end of the Match Of The Day saga, is that we don’t have to listen to various Tory MP’s talk about football. It’s been like listening to a dog describe chess.”
One of the best things about the end of the Match of the Day saga, is that we don't have to listen to various Tory MP's talk about football. It's been like listening to a dog describe chess.
— Nish Kumar (@MrNishKumar) March 13, 2023
O Briain wrote: “Well done @garylineker at enduring this ridiculous, contrived ‘controversy’; and demonstrating that, as ever, people are perfectly capable of handling the idea that a grown-up can have a public job and also be separately, politically engaged in their own time. We’re not babies.”
Former BBC foreign correspondent Jon Sopel used the analogy of Liverpool’s recent catastrophic win over Manchester United to share his thoughts on the BBC’s back-peddling, tweeting: “Umm. To put this in footballing terms, this is akin to the result at Anfield last weekend. And Lineker is Liverpool.”
The tweet followed Sopel’s earlier post in which he wrote: “Thought for Monday: it’s taken the Treasury and Bank of England less time to deal with complexity of finding a buyer for a failed bank, involving billions of pounds and affecting 1000s of investors, than it has for the BBC to sort out a tweet from Gary Lineker.”
Umm. To put this in footballing terms, this is akin to the result at Anfield last weekend. And Lineker is Liverpool https://t.co/BTR7Sj5QQw
— Jon Sopel (@jonsopel) March 13, 2023
Labour also weighed in on the conversation, which has dominated news headlines and front pages for the past week, and welcomed the announcement of Lineker’s MOTD return.
Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said: “This is welcome and we will all be pleased to see Gary Lineker and football coverage back on the BBC this weekend. A review of the BBC’s social media guidelines is clearly needed.
“But much bigger questions remain about the impartiality and independence of the BBC from government pressures.”
She added: “As well as a review of the BBC’s social media guidelines, this saga should prompt the Government to examine how it protects and promotes a truly independent and impartial BBC.”
Meanwhile, leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey took the opportunity to call upon Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to sack BBC chairman Richard Sharp.
He said: “Everyone will be pleased to see Gary Lineker and the football and sports coverage back to normal on the BBC next weekend.
“However, given his ties to Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, and the scandal surrounding his appointment, the public simply cannot trust Richard Sharp to restore the BBC’s credibility.
“Rishi Sunak must sack him now and ensure a new, properly independent chair is in post to implement the review as soon as it is finished.”
Well done @garylineker at enduring this ridiculous, contrived “controversy”; and demonstrating that, as ever, people are perfectly capable of handling the idea that a grown-up can have a public job and also be separately, politically engaged in their own time. We’re not babies.
— Dara Ó Briain (@daraobriain) March 13, 2023
Former journalist and Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell was among those praising Lineker for his “professionalism, accountability and integrity”.
“Well done @garylineker for showing that if you believe in professionalism, accountability and integrity with values to match you can prevail even in these populist polarised days of creeping right wing authoritarianism,” he tweeted.
Former BBC TV and radio presenter Roger Bolton said the BBC’s plan for a review into its social media guidance following the confirmation of Lineker’s return “in itself resolves nothing”.
This is welcome and we will all be pleased to see Gary Lineker and football coverage back on the BBC this weekend.
But much bigger questions remain about the impartiality and independence of the BBC from Govt pressures. My statement 👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/PrpSIbaHQj
— Lucy Powell MP (@LucyMPowell) March 13, 2023
Bolton, who hosts Roger Bolton’s Beeb Watch podcast, said: “The review is necessary but its independence depends on who conducts it. Will it simply analyse the problem or give recommendations?
“Is the BBC committed to accept any recommendations? It seems not.
“The report will be given to the BBC board to decide what further should be done. It is chaired by someone, Richard Sharp, who is not seen as impartial by many people and who has been missing in action over the last crucial days.
“And has Gary Lineker agreed not to tweet on controversial issues while the review takes place? This is an important and necessary holding operation but in itself resolves nothing.”