Gary Lineker vows to keep making political statements in new headache for BBC bosses

Gary Lineker BBC - Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Gary Lineker BBC - Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Gary Lineker said he will carry on making political statements in defiance of BBC guidelines, declaring: “If I am told to not do something, it will drive me to do it even further.”

The Match of the Day presenter said that the subject of BBC impartiality was “almost unresolvable”.

In March, Lineker threw the BBC into a crisis when he posted a tweet drawing parallels between Suella Braverman’s policy on illegal migrants and the language of Nazi Germany.

He was temporarily removed from Match of the Day, sparking a revolt by BBC Sport colleagues. The corporation backed down and said that it would review its guidelines on what presenters can and cannot say.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Lineker said that he felt “vindicated” and claimed the majority of British people disagree with the Rwanda policy.

Asked whether he now felt more empowered to speak out, he replied: “I am a little bit the kind of person that, if I am told to not do something, it will drive me to do it even further. I will continue to speak out.”

The two subjects about which he feels most strongly are refugees and climate change.

“Obviously, sometimes people will say that crosses a political line a little bit, but almost everything does in life, and that includes football as well,” he said.

“People say, ‘Stick to football, stay out of politics’. They’re kind of entwined. So, yeah, I’ll carry on.”

Lineker reiterated his criticism of the Government’s Rwanda policy: “This does clearly cross into a political area where it’s talking about the Government. I disagree with their policy. I think most people do. I don’t know whether it will actually be even legal.”

‘Impartiality really tricky at the BBC’

The fact that he is the BBC’s highest-paid presenter should have no bearing on what he is allowed to say, Lineker added.

“I don’t see how much someone’s salary is relevant in any way, shape or form as to whether you have an opinion,” he said.

I’m a freelance sports person. I don’t see how that is an issue at all with having views about the refugee crisis.

“There is nothing in my contract whatsoever [prohibiting] having an opinion on a different variety of things, and I think it’s actually really important that people with a platform do use it for the power of good.”

Lineker said of Tim Davie, the BBC’s director general: “It’s an incredibly difficult job. Impartiality is really tricky at the BBC and I think it’s an issue that is almost unresolvable.”

Asked if he believed that he would have been suspended from his job if he had tweeted in support of the Government’s policy, he replied: “No.”

He also referenced environmental protesters in the interview, saying that they “may well be the heroes” in the future if we manage to resolve the climate crisis.

“They do stuff knowing they will be locked up, and I kind of admire that in a way, and I know it angers a lot of people, but that is kind of what they want because it is the only way it gets publicised, only reason we're talking about it now.”

“If we manage to save the human race in 50 or 100 years' time and we still exist, they will look back on these people, Greta Thunberg and people like that who have made a real difference, and they may well be the heroes,” he said.