Gary Lineker returns to BBC for first time since Twitter row

Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker

As a television presenter and self-declared political pundit, Gary Lineker has become well known for speaking out on issues he feels strongly about.

But on Saturday, he was more reserved as he returned to Match of the Day Live a week after being taken off air over an impartiality row with BBC bosses.

In a nod to the furore of recent weeks, before going on air he tweeted: "Ah the joys of being allowed to stick to football."

After the opening sequences, a somewhat hoarse 62-year-old presenter simply said: “It’s great to be here”.

Then Alan Shearer stepped in to address their absence last Saturday.

Speaking from the commentary box at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester 15 minutes before the FA Cup quarter-final kick-off, Mr Shearer, the former England player and regular MOTD pundit, said: “Yes it’s good. I just need to clear up and wanted to say how upset we were that all the audiences missed out on last weekend.

“It was a really difficult situation for everyone concerned. And, through no fault of their own, some really great people in TV and in radio were put in an impossible situation, and that wasn’t fair. So, it’s good to get back to some sort of normality and be talking about football again.”

Mr Lineker simply replied: “Absolutely. I echo those sentiments.” They then turned to the matter in hand: the Manchester City vs Burnley match.

Mr Lineker was taken off air last week for a tweet saying that the language of the Home Office’s policy on migrants was "not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s".

The presenter had to “step back” from presenting the show, triggering a mass walkout by fellow presenters and pundits, including Mr Shearer.

Last weekend’s highlight shows were either cut in length or aired without presentation or commentary.

MOTD aired for only 20 minutes last Saturday without accompanying commentary or analysis from presenters, with Sunday’s edition following a similar format and running for just 15 minutes.

On Saturday, Mr Lineker was photographed leaving his London home in the morning. He was then filmed and photographed arriving at Etihad Stadium in Manchester about an hour before MOTD Live was due to be aired.

Earlier, Alex Scott, the former professional footballer and sports presenter who joined those boycotting the BBC, returned to Football Focus in the morning.

Alex Scott
Alex Scott

BBC Director-General Tim Davie had earlier 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.”

After the official BBC statement was published, Lineker tweeted that he was "delighted" to have navigated a way through the row after a "surreal few days".

He added: "I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost three decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday."

Mark Chapman was due to host MOTD highlights later on Saturday night.