Match of the Day to air without presenters, pundits or BBC commentators after Gary Lineker removed

Match of the Day will go ahead tonight without a presenter, pundits or BBC commentators after Gary Lineker was removed from the programme.

The BBC said there would be no "studio presentation or punditry" and that the show would instead focus on "match action".

It comes after commentators Steve Wilson, Simon Brotherton, Conor McNamara and Robyn Cowen followed Ian Wright and Alan Shearer in pulling out of the show.

Lineker was forced off the programme in a row over impartiality after comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum policy with 1930s Germany.

He is stepping back from Match of the Day (MOTD) until there is an "agreed and clear position" on his social media use, the BBC said.

Alan Shearer - one of the show's regulars - tweeted: "I have informed the BBC that I won't be appearing on MOTD (Saturday night)", while Wright posted: "Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I've told the BBC I won't be doing it (Saturday). Solidarity."

A BBC spokesperson said: "Some of our pundits have said that they don't wish to appear on the programme while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary.

"We understand their position and we have decided that the programme will focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry."

Commentator Steve Wilson and others said: "As commentators on MOTD, we have decided to step down from (Saturday's) broadcast.

"We are comforted that football fans who want to watch their teams should still be able to do so, as management can use World Feed commentary if they wish.

"However, in the circumstances, we do not feel it would be appropriate to take part in the programme."

Players who do not want to fulfil media interview duties with the BBC after Saturday's matches will be supported by the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), Sky News understands.

A number of players contacted the PFA seeking advice and the union has spoken to Premier League clubs to establish a collective position.

Meanwhile, former Arsenal player Alex Scott appeared to rule herself out of possibly presenting the programme by posting a GIF with the words "Nah! Not me".

Football pundits Micah Richards and Jermaine Jenas also made clear they would not be interested in being pundits, with Jenas saying he would have "said no" if asked.

Read more:
A history of Gary Lineker's most controversial tweets

It sparked the hashtag #Solidarity and MOTD to trend on Twitter, with thousands sharing their thoughts and many joking about who would be left to appear.

"I have informed the BBC that I am very much available for (Saturday's) #MOTD," comedian Joe Lycett tweeted, which received tens of thousands of likes.

Journalist Alastair Campbell, whose podcast is produced by Lineker's firm, suggested BBC chairman Richard Sharp might need to step in, writing: "Can't wait for MotD (Saturday). Presented by Richard Sharp with punditry by Robbie Gibb and Isabel Oakeshott."

Sir Robbie Gibb is a member of the BBC board and Theresa May's former director of communications, while journalist Oakeshott has been in the news for leaking Matt Hancock's WhatsApp messages.

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Former Newsnight host Emily Maitlis, who was herself reprimanded by the BBC for sharing a tweet the corporation viewed as "controversial", said the backlash was getting "unmanageably big".

A Labour Party source said: "Tory politicians lobbying to get people sacked for disagreeing with government policies should be laughed at, not pandered to. The BBC should rethink their decision."

Philippa Childs, head of Bectu - which represents thousands of BBC workers, said the decision was "deeply concerning" and "will give the appearance that they have bowed to political pressure from ministers".

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said "individual cases" were a matter for the BBC.

The BBC said on Friday that it had been in "extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days".

"We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines," the statement added.

An online petition calling for Lineker to be reinstated has reached 100,000 signatures - and some people on social media said they had cancelled the direct debit for their licence fee.

Simone Gordon, 42, from Lincoln, tweeted that "a red line has been crossed this week" and claimed the BBC was biased in its news coverage.

Another Twitter user, Steve Ryall, wrote: "Dear BBC, my direct debit for my TV licence comes out of my bank account on the 13th of each month.

"Good luck collecting it henceforth.

"Why on earth would I fund an organisation that doesn't believe in freedom of speech?"