Gary Lineker to return to Match of the Day this weekend after BBC deal reached

Gary Lineker is set to return to Match of the Day this weekend following disruption across the BBC Sport schedules.

A host of sports presenters and pundits pulled out of BBC shows at the weekend after the former England striker was told to step back from hosting the show in a row over impartiality.

The BBC management have reached a deal to get the presenter back on air after the corporation apologised for “potential confusion caused by the grey areas” of its social media guidelines.

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Football Focus, Final Score and BBC 5Live, were all pulled while Match of the Day and Sportscene aired stripped back coverage, with the usual show replaced by a shortened highlights reel featuring no commentary and without studio punditry.

Director General Tim Davie says: “Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend.”

In a statement, Davie announced the BBC will launch an independent review into its social media guidelines, with a particular focus on freelancers outside news and current affairs like Lineker.

The director general says the BBC and Gary are "in favour of such a review."

The BBC’s current social media guidance will remain in place while the work is completed and who will carry the review out will be announced "shortly".

Gary Lineker is set to return to Match of the Day this weekend following disruption across the BBC Sport schedules.Gary Lineker is set to return to Match of the Day this weekend following disruption across the BBC Sport schedules.
Gary Lineker is set to return to Match of the Day this weekend following disruption across the BBC Sport schedules.

Gary Lineker said in the statement: "I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air."

He also tweeted a thread on social media writing: “After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.

"I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost 3 decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday.

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"A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you.

"We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you.”

BBC director general Tim Davie said there have been “no easy answers” and he did the “right thing” after the corporation asked Gary Lineker to step away from Match Of The Day.

Davie told BBC News: “I’ve always said we need to take proportionate action, and for some people…we’ve taken too severe action, others think we’re being too lenient.

“There’s never been an easy solution but asking Gary to step back off air, I think, was a significant thing and now we look forward with this agreement, moving forward to resolve things and get back to business as usual.”

On whether he had reached an agreement on social media with Lineker after the presenter was announced to be coming back on air, Davie said the presenter will “abide by the editorial guidelines” until a review has taken place.

He added: “I think it was a very big moment in terms of us saying we have to take stock here, we have to take action, we did take action which we thought was proportionate and as the BBC we did the right thing, I did the right thing.”

Downing Street said it was “pleased” that the row between the BBC and Gary Lineker has been brought to an end.

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A No10 spokesman said: “We are pleased that this situation has been resolved and that fans will be able to watch Match Of The Day as normal this weekend.”

They declined to comment on how the BBC had handled the furore over Gary Lineker and impartiality within the corporation with a No10 spokesman saying it was “a matter entirely for the BBC”.

“As we’ve said before, it’s the BBC has a responsibility to maintain impartiality, and we welcome any step to ensure that that responsibility is reflected in their social media guidelines.”

The spokesperson also refused to be drawn into backing for the under-fire chairman of the BBC, Richard Sharp, stating: “The prime minister said that the office for the commissioner for public appointments has announced a review of that competition process to approve the chairman of the BBC to ensure that the process was run in compliance with the rules.

“We will await the outcome of that review and we will of course provide any assistance with that process but it is for that review to look into that.”

Former journalist and Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell has praised Gary Lineker for his “professionalism, accountability and integrity” and Tim Davie for “admitting they got it wrong” after the BBC apology.

“Well done @garylineker for showing that if you believe in professionalism, accountability and integrity with values to match you can prevail even in these populist polarised days of creeping right wing authoritarianism,” he tweeted.

“And well done Tim Davie for admitting they got it wrong.

“The lessons in this for the BBC are clear. Do not pander to extremism, challenge it. And stop thinking that right wing rags like the Mail and the Express represent public opinion.”