BBC grovels for return of Gary Lineker but row has ‘gone too far’

'Bring back Gary Lineker' BBC News heckled during live report

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BBC bosses want “best in the business” Gary Lineker to return to Match of the Day, but the row has reportedly “gone too far” for that to happen. Former tennis star and broadcaster Andrew Castle has said that even if Lineker apologised to the BBC, which his son said he will not, a return would be unlikely.

The BBC has plunged into chaos following the company’s decision to axe Lineker over a tweet comparing the Government’s asylum policy to 1930s Germany. 

After the decision, fellow football presenters and pundits have walked away from their various shows, including Match of the Day and Football Focus. The list of walkouts includes Alan Shearer, Ian Wright, Alex Scott and more.

Last night, Gary was reportedly tucking into a cottage pie as MOTD aired to the nation without him in it. The show presented short highlights of the day’s matches, with a graphic in between each clip. It was without the usual chatter of the pundits, whose voices were replaced with the sound of the crowd in each stadium.

Director-general Tim Davie grovelled for the return of Lineker in a statement after MOTD’s failed return without him.  

Mr Davie said: “Gary Lineker is a superb broadcaster, he’s the best in the business.”

He added: “Success for me is – Gary gets back on air and together we are giving audiences that world-class sports coverage which I’m sorry we haven’t been able to deliver today.”

Whether the BBC would demand an apology in order for him to return is unclear.

Speaking with LBC, Andrew Castle said on Friday: “I was with Gary Lineker for half a day, plus, on Thursday, I was working with him. His phone was going absolutely mad.

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Gary’s son George has said the star is “hurt” by the controversy but has “no regrets” after an outpour of support for the pundit.

“I said to him, that I thought to draw the parallels between, you know, the rise of Nazism in the 30s and early 30s government and the immigration policy of a serving Conservative Party was a step too far and he agreed. And he said so. He’s alluded to that. 

“If he was to apologise, then fine I suspect he could go back on air but it’s gone a little bit too far for that.”

On top of sparking the walkout of major sports pundits, the controversy has led to a widespread mutiny among the BBC. One journalist told The Times: “There’s a complete absence of leadership.”

Another journalist added: “This is Armageddon – essentially an entire division of the BBC has gone on strike.”

He said the star would consider going back to MOTD although he definitely will not apologise.

George told The Mirror: “Dad is a good man, a good human, and I’m proud of him for standing by his word. That’s why he was pulled off the show – because he wouldn’t apologise. But he will always speak up for people who don’t have a voice.

“He is passionate about helping refugee charities – he took in two refugees who he is still in touch with and trying to help. It means a lot to him to stand up for people whose only hope is to escape a country with only the clothes on their back. That’s why he’s been so firm.

“Will he go back to Match of the Day? I think so – he loves Match of the Day. But he won’t ever back down on his word.”

At least fifteen BBC presenters, pundits and commentators quickly came out to support Lineker after he was axed with the numbers seeming to rise daily.

The staff who quickly boycotted the BBC are: 

  • Alex Scott
  • Kelly Somers
  • Jason Mohammad
  • Alan Shearer
  • Ian Wright
  • Micah Richards
  • Jermaine Jenas
  • Mark Chapman
  • Dion Dublin
  • Glenn Murray
  • Steve Wilson
  • Conor McNamara
  • Robyn Cowen 
  • Steven Wyeth
  • Leon Osman

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