Gary Lineker's Match of the Day co-hosts to skip this week in "solidarity"
The BBC has been widely criticised for removing Gary Lineker from Match of the Day this weekend due to his comments on the UK government’s new refugee policy.
Earlier this week, Lineker criticised a video released by Home Secretary Suella Braverman to outline a controversial policy that would see the UK detain migrants arriving via small boats and seek to deport them within weeks.
Lineker initially linked to the video on his Twitter and responded that the policy is "beyond awful". He also tweeted: "There is no huge influx [in refugees]. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.
"This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the '30s."
The BBC subsequently announced on Friday (March 10) that Lineker's "recent social media activity [was] a breach" of its impartiality guidelines, as he'd directly criticised the policy of the Conservative government.
"The BBC has decided he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we've got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media," a BBC spokesperson said.
The BBC goes on to say that while it values Lineker's expertise in sports commentary, it wants him to "keep well away from taking sides in political issues or political controversies."
Lineker has since clarified to Channel 5's Dan Walker that the BBC ordered him to stand down from presenting Match of the Day, rather than both parties coming to any kind of compromise over his position.
"I'm actually texting the man himself at the moment," Walker told viewers. "I've asked Gary Lineker the question over whether he is stepping back, or the BBC have told him to step back... There's one word in there I can't use, but he says: 'No, they've told me I have to step back'."
In response to Lineker's absence on Match of the Day for now, his co-presenters subsequently announced they too will miss this weekend's coverage in solidarity with Lineker, at the time of this writing.
"Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity," Ian Wright tweeted on Friday.
Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.
— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) March 10, 2023
Alan Shearer has made a similar pledge, tweeting: "I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night."
Their BBC colleague Alex Scott, of The One Show and BBC Sport coverage, has indicated that she will not be standing in for this weekend's Match of the Day either.
Micah Richards added: "I was not due to be working on MOTD tomorrow, but if I was, I would find myself taking the same decision that @IanWright0 & @alanshearer have."
Jermaine Jenas subsequently made a similar vow that, while he wasn't due to present this weekend, he would have "said no and stood with my fellow pundits and @GaryLineker", if asked.
Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson argued that it's "a shame" the story has become about one man's opinion "rather than the tragedy of human beings struggling to find sanctuary".
"Having taken in refugees himself, Gary has surely earned the right to express his opinion," Wilson wrote to followers.
According to The Daily Mail's Matt Hughes, the BBC continues to look for potential replacements for Saturday's show because Mark Chapman has refused as well.
Lineker has received public support from BBC personalities from other types of programming, including former Pointless presenter Richard Osman.
Of the BBC's decision to take Lineker off air, Osman tweeted: "This is pathetic for so many reasons."
In the wake of this falling out between Lineker and the BBC, the former striker has repeatedly indicated on social media that he continues to stand by his original criticism of the government's 'small boat' policy.
Organisations which provide help and support to refugees include the Refugee Council and UN Refugee Agency, which also provide information on ways you can help those in need.
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