Gary Lineker row: BBC acknowledges 'strength of feeling' among staff as programmes taken off air

The BBC has said it "understands the strength of feeling" among staff about Gary Lineker's suspension as it battles to get regular football programming back on the air.

Final Score and Football Focus were pulled from BBC One on Saturday after their respective hosts, Jason Mohammad and Alex Scott, said they would not be hosting their shows.

Other presenters, pundits and commentators also refused to appear after the corporation said Lineker would be "stepping back" from presenting Match of the Day.

The BBC has said Lineker breached its social media guidelines by criticising government policy on migration.

In an email to staff, the corporation's director of sport, Barbara Slater, said: "We understand how unsettling this is for all of you - the staff in BBC Sport and our freelance community.

"And we understand the strength of feeling which has been generated by this issue."

Ms Slater added: "Individual heads of department and lead editors will be updating teams as and when they can, so if you have any specific questions about your role, please contact your line manager.

"We are working hard to resolve the situation and we will update you as soon as possible."

The head of broadcasting union Bectu, Philippa Childs, said the "strength of feeling from both staff and members of the public should indicate to the corporation that its handling of the (Lineker) issue has been a massive misstep".

Ms Childs said the union had previously written to the BBC's director general about its concerns over the corporation's chairman, Richard Sharp.

Revelations have emerged about the part Mr Sharp played in securing an £800,000 loan for Boris Johnson.

Ms Childs added: "Our members and no doubt many others who work at the BBC will be rightly confused why those at the highest levels of the corporation are apparently immune to the stringent guidelines applied to everyone else."

On Saturday afternoon the BBC returned to some semblance of normality as it covered Italy versus Wales in the Six Nations rugby tournament and Leeds versus Brighton in football's Premier League.

Radio 5 Live football commentator Ian Dennis, at Elland Road, said: "It's a very difficult time for BBC Sport, for those that work in the department and we all hope that that gets resolved.

"Personally I found today very difficult, but I'm a BBC staff member, I'm a radio commentator for BBC Radio 5 Live, and today, like every Saturday afternoon, we provide a service to you, the audience."

Lineker did not answer reporters' questions when he left his home in Barnes, southwest London, this morning.

The 62-year-old former England striker then travelled to Leicester's King Power stadium to see his hometown club play Chelsea.

The Sports Journalists' Association said it "fully supports its members and industry colleagues on freedom of speech".

It tweeted: "The SJA would like to express its solidarity on this matter and will continue to monitor developments on the BBC and Gary Lineker story."

Former England star Alex Scott tweeted that even though she loves presenting Football Focus it "just doesn't feel right going ahead with the show today".

"Hopefully I will be back in the chair next week," she added.

BBC accused of 'assault on free speech' - Lineker row latest updates

Jason Mohammad commented: "As you know, Final Score is a TV show very close to my heart.

"However, I have this morning informed the BBC that I will not be presenting the show this afternoon on BBC One."

Radio host Mark Chapman withdrew from hosting BBC Radio 5 Live Sport this afternoon, Sky News understands, with the show also being taken off air.

His colleague Dion Dublin also said he would not be appearing on the station, while Jermain Defoe said he will not be in the studio for Match of the Day 2 on Sunday.

Read more: BBC guidelines explained - and do they apply to Lineker?

A BBC spokesperson said: "The BBC will only be able to bring limited sport programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that.

"We are sorry for these changes which we recognise will be disappointing for BBC sport fans.

"We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon."

Match of the Day will go ahead tonight - but without a presenter, pundits or BBC commentators after Lineker was removed from the programme over his tweets criticising the government's migrants policy.

The BBC has said there will be no "studio presentation or punditry" in Saturday night's edition, which will instead focus on "match action".

The BBC has "undermined its own credibility", a former BBC director-general said earlier on Saturday.

Greg Dyke, also a former chairman of the FA, told Radio 4's Today programme that the broadcaster was "mistaken" in standing Lineker down.

The row began on Tuesday when Lineker tweeted his thoughts on the government's new policy to stem the flow of small boats crossing the Channel.

He compared the language used by the government to that used in 1930s Germany, when the Nazis came to power.

The BBC deemed the tweet had broken its editorial guidelines on impartiality and said Lineker had been removed from Match of the Day until an agreement could be reached on his use of social media.