Iconic Match of the Day overshadowed by Lineker row

Proudly billed by the BBC as "the world's most famous football show", Match of the Day tackled the sport's most controversial moments for nearly 60 years before being thrown into turmoil by outspoken presenter Gary Lineker this week.

Match of the Day host Lineker sparked an impartiality row by criticising the British government's new policy on tackling illegal immigration.

The 62-year-old former England striker compared the language used to launch the new policy to that of Nazi-era Germany on Twitter, which the BBC said on Friday was a "breach of our guidelines".

The BBC responded by asking Lineker to "step back" from the show this weekend, prompting several Match of the Day pundits, including Alan Shearer and Ian Wright, to withdraw from the programme in support for the ex-Barcelona and Tottenham star.

It is arguably the most dramatic moment in Match of the Day's iconic run.

First broadcast in 1964 to show highlights from Liverpool's game against Arsenal only to viewers in London, the programme has gone on to be recognised as "the longest-running football television programme in the world" by the Guinness Book of Records.

Although that first show, broadcast in black and white, drew only 20,000 viewers, Match of the Day soon became a cultural phenomenon.

By the 1970s, before the explosion in wall to wall live coverage of football, Match of the Day was essential viewing in its late evening slot on Saturdays.

Fans tuned in to the only place it was possible to watch action from a selection of matches across all four English divisions and the top tier in Scotland.

- 'That's fame for you!' -

Match of the Day, whose name was borrowed from a little-used BBC Wimbledon tennis programme, is synonymous with its jaunty theme tune.

The theme was composed by Barry Stoller in 1970 after 'Drum Majorette' by Major Leslie Statham was used for its first six years.

The programme's legendary commentator John Motson made his debut in 1971 and would go on to become the show's longest-serving announcer.

Jimmy Hill, a former Coventry manager turned broadcaster, became famous as the show's first long-running and innovative presenter.

The debonair Des Lynam took the reins from Hill with great success prior to the arrival in 1999 of Lineker, who memorably hosted one show in his underwear after a bet over Leicester's unexpected title triumph in 2016.

As its popularity grew, Lynam gave a glimpse into the spotlight on Match of the Day's presenters.

"We were at a ground and all 30,000 people started chanting at Jimmy Hill, but not quite in his favour," he said.

"I asked him how he put up with it and he simply said 'that's fame for you!'"

Match of the Day's lasting impact was clear to see when Motson, who covered over 2,000 games before hanging up his microphone in 2018, died to widespread tributes from across the game in February this year.

Even in an era of saturation coverage of the Premier League across several satellite and terrestrial broadcasters, Match of the Day still retains significant cache, both in the sports world and the television industry.

Attracting estimated audiences of around six million per show, Match of the Day should survive the Lineker controversy to remain at the centre of British football culture.