BBC 'could have to pay millions' if they sack Gary Lineker bosses fear

BBC 'could have to pay millions' if they sack Gary Lineker bosses fear

March 12, 2023

BBC ‘could have to pay millions’ if they sack Gary Lineker, bosses fear: Senior figures ‘believe they would lose any legal claim under terms of his contract and can’t force him to follow social media rules’ – as MOTD2 is now in doubt amid BBC ‘Armageddon’

  • Last night’s football programming was in tatters amid the growing BBC feud
  • Today’s MOTD2 is now in doubt after Jermain Defoe pulled out of his pundit role 

The BBC could have to pay millions of pounds to football pundit Gary Lineker if it chooses to sack him in the ongoing row over impartiality rules, as the broadcaster faces a second day of turmoil with Match of the Day 2 in doubt.

The corporation is reportedly unable to fire him or force him to follow social media rules on impartiality as the fallout over his criticism of the government’s policy on small boat crossings continues.

It is understood the wording of Lineker’s contract means axing him would likely end with them having to pay out millions of pounds to the presenter if he chose to pursue the issue through the courts.

But there is a growing fear among BBC bosses that ‘strikes in all but name’ will spread throughout the corporation’s sports and even news departments, leaving the corporation ‘on the verge of Armageddon’.

There is doubt over whether Sunday’s MOTD2 will go ahead after pundit Jermain Defoe announced he would not appear as planned, after a 20-minute version of the show was aired last night without commentary, punditry or theme tune.

The BBC could have to pay Lineker millions of pounds if it sacks him due to the wording of his contract

The BBC’s Director-General Tim Davie (pictured) has refused to resign over the chaos caused after Gary Lineker was axed from Match Of The Day

Lineker was forced off air this weekend over a tweet in which he compared the government’s latest stance on migrants to the language used in 1930s Germany.

The latest policy, which would see desperate people who cross on small boats banned from applying to reach the UK for life, has been widely condemned by human rights groups, with claims it could breach international law.

The BBC has strict impartiality rules for employees, including on social media, which new Director General Tim Davie is understood to have clamped down on.

But Lineker’s two-year contract was signed before Davie came to the helm, leaving the corporation unable to force him to comply with tougher standards, the Independent reports. 

When asked whether he would resign over the chaos, Davie apologised for disruption but refused to step down.

It comes after it was revealed BBC staff are fuming at how slowly the broadcaster is responding to the crisis, with its flagship sports show in tatters last night.

One BBC journalist said: ‘This is Armageddon – essentially an entire division of the BBC has gone on strike.’ 

Sporting heavyweights have already walked away from football programming across the BBC, but it is now reported that other sports staff members could follow suit. 

There are already doubts about whether coverage of the WSL crunch match between Chelsea and Manchester United will go ahead. 

Now it appears Gabby Logan and her Six Nations coverage team may scupper the BBC’s coverage of the tournament with yet more walkouts.

Ahead of last night’s MOTD starting, a continuity announcer said: ‘Now on BBC One, we’re sorry that we’re unable to show our normal Match Of The Day including commentary tonight. But here now is the best action from today’s Premier League matches.’ 

Fans slammed Match Of The Day as ‘insanely terrible’ this evening after it started without the usual iconic music and titles and had no punditry or commentary

It appears Gabby Logan (pictured during the BBC’s Six Nations coverage in February) and her Six Nations coverage team may scupper the BBC’s coverage of the tournament with yet more walkouts

There are already doubts about whether coverage of the WSL crunch match between Chelsea and Manchester United will go ahead. Pictured: Alessia Russo and Mary Earps of Manchester United Women’s team

Davie told the BBC’s Nomia Iqbal: ‘I’m sorry audiences have been affected and they haven’t got the programming’

Match of the Day will last just 20 minutes tonight with no Gary Lineker, no commentary and no pundits following a day of chaos for the BBC

Tim Davie apologised for today’s sports scheduling mayhem but said the corporation was ‘working very hard to resolve this situation’

Match Of The Day lasted just 20 minutes following a day of chaos for the BBC as big-name stars walked out in protest alongside host Gary Lineker, leaving the broadcaster having to cancel most of its football coverage.

It was rebranded as ‘Premier League Highlights’ during its broadcast on Saturday evening.

After the shortened version of the usually two-to-three-hour-long programme, the BBC aired Sully, a film about the Hudson River plane crash.

The BBC’s Director-General refused to resign over the chaos caused after Gary Lineker was axed from Match Of The Day and said the football host is ‘the best’ and he wants him ‘back on air’.

Tim Davie apologised for the scheduling mayhem but said the corporation was ‘working very hard to resolve this situation’ and he would ‘absolutely not’ resign.

Davie told the BBC: ‘Gary Lineker is a superb broadcaster. He’s the best in the business. He’s an outstanding, brilliant broadcaster and success for me is that Gary gets back on air.’

Asked whether he should resign, Davie said: ‘Absolutely not. I think my job is to serve licence fee payers and deliver a BBC that is really focused on world class, impartial, landmark output.’ 

He added: ‘I’m sorry audiences have been affected and they haven’t got the programming. 

‘As a keen sports fan I know to miss programming is a real blow and I’m sorry about that. We are working very hard to resolve this situation and make sure we get output on air.

‘Everyone wants to calmly resolve the situation. Gary Lineker’s the best in the business – that’s not for debate.’

Mr Davie also said that he does not feel this is about ‘left or right’ politics, but about the corporation’s ability to balance free speech and impartiality, adding: ‘We’re fierce champions of democratic debate, free speech, but with that comes the need to create an impartial organisation.’ 

On Saturday Lineker’s son George said while his father may return to the flagship football programme, he would not apologise. 

Speaking to the Mirror, George, 31, said although his father had been ‘hurt’ by some of the reaction to his ‘Nazi’ jibe tweet against the government’s asylum policy, he ‘wouldn’t back down’. 

He told the Mirror: ‘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.’ 

He added: ‘Dad is 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.’

George said his father would always speak for people without a voice and that refugee welfare was important to him.

Leicester fan Gary Lineker was at the King Power Stadium to watch his boyhood club host Chelsea. He cheered after Chelsea’s goal was disallowed following a VAR review

The former England star was pictured taking selfies with fans after being taken off air by BBC bosses

Lineker took photos with two kids prior to Leicester’s match against Chelsea at the King Power 

Leicester City fans held up signs in support of  Lineker in the stands before the match at the King Power Stadium

Swansea City fans also held up a sign in support of the Match of the Day presenter during the Championship side’s clash with Middlesbrough

On Saturday, Football Focus and Final Score were hurriedly replaced by old episodes of Bargain Hunt and The Repair Shop after hosts Alex Scott, Kelly Somers, and Jason Mohammad all refused to take to the airwaves in solidarity with the former England star. 

Football Focus host Alex Scott Tweeted that broadcasting the show ‘just doesn’t feel right.’

She wrote: ‘I made a decision last night that even though I love doing football focus and we have had an incredible week winning an SJA award that it just doesn’t feel right going ahead with the show today. Hopefully I will be back in the chair next week…’

BBC Radio 5 Live’s schedule was also hit after football presenter Mark Chapman pulled out of broadcasting alongside Colin Murray, and pundit Dion Dublin, forcing the replacement of 5 Live Sport and Fighting Talk with old podcast episodes. 

Jermain Defoe, who was due to appear on Match of the Day 2 today, also tweeted: ‘It’s always such a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I have taken the decision to stand down from my punditry duties. @GaryLineker.’ 

In a statement, a BBC spokesperson said: ‘The BBC will only be able to bring limited sport programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that.

‘We are sorry for these changes which we recognise will be disappointing for BBC sport fans.

‘We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.’ 

To add to the turmoil, Ian Wright – who refused to appear on TV on Saturday – said: ‘If the BBC get rid of Gary Lineker, I’m out, I’m gone.’

It came as a YouGov snap poll revealed a majority (53 per cent) of the British public think the BBC was wrong to suspend Gary Lineker from Match of the Day following his comments on social media about the government’s asylum policy.

The data finds that just over a quarter (27 per cent) think the broadcaster was right to suspend him and a fifth (20 per cent) don’t know.

Labour (75 per cent) and Liberal Democrat (73 per cent) voters are most likely to think the BBC made the wrong decision compared to just over a third (36 per cent) of Conservatives. 

In comparison, half (51 per cent) of Tory voters believe the broadcaster made the right decision along with 10 per cent of Labour voters and 14 per cent of Liberal Democrats.

Lineker was spotted in the director’s box as he watched Leicester fall to a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea at the King Power Stadium

Seeing red: Leicester City’s Wout Faes was shown a red card by referee Andre Marriner during the defeat

Instead of presenting MOTD, Lineker watched Leicester lose 3-1 to Chelsea on Saturday and was pictured taking photos with fans before the game.

Who is Gary Lineker’s former England teammate John Barnes?

Ex-England winger John Barnes has come out in full support of Gary Lineker after the MOTD host posted a controversial ‘Nazi’ jibe on Twitter.

Barnes was a teammate of Lineker’s at two world cups. His introduction to the 1986 World Cup was in the quarter final with 15 minutes to go, trailing 2–0 against Argentina.

He set up a goal for Lineker but England crashed out of the tournament.

Barnes was praised for his play and became a regular in the starting line up.

In 1990, during the lead up to the World Cup in Italy, Barnes played alongside Lineker as a forward.

He was injured after scoring a wrongly-disallowed volley against Belgium in the last sixteen stage.

On Saturday Barnes said Lineker was a ‘legend to so many’ but had people’s support over his tweet because ‘he’s right’. 

The beloved MOTD host has been backed by his fellow presenters and sports stars.

Speaking after his side’s 1-0 loss to Bournemouth, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: ‘I’m not native but I cannot see why you would ask someone to step back for saying that.

‘Everybody wants to be so concerned about doing things in the right manner, saying the right stuff.

‘If you don’t do that then you create a s***storm, it is a really difficult world to live in.

‘If I understand it right, it is a message, an opinion about human rights and that should be possible to say.’

Lineker’s England teammate at two world cups John Barnes accused the BBC of ‘playing into’ the government’s hands by making the story about their chaotic actions rather than the controversial immigration bill.

Writing in The Mirror, he said: ‘The Tories are quite happy for this distraction.

‘Gary is a football legend to so many. Most people are supporting him because he’s right.’

A leaked email sent to BBC staff has also surfaced on social media showing the Director of Sport Barbara Slater apologising to her team for the continuous chaos which has unravelled at the broadcaster this afternoon.

She thanked staff for their hard work and professionalism despite many boycotting their responsibilities this afternoon in solidarity with Lineker. 

Slater said that the BBC ‘understood how unsettling this is for all of you’.

The BBC has reportedly told staff there will be a series of meetings on Monday so they can ‘have their say’ about the fiasco. 

With no need to prepare for MOTD tonight, Lineker was free to head to the King Power Stadium this afternoon for the 3pm match between Leicester and Chelsea

Jon Holmes (right), agent of Gary Lineker arrives at the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at the King Power Stadium this afternoon

Gary Lineker was seen outside his London home this morning after fellow presenters and walked out of today’s BBC’s football coverage in a show of solidarity

Confusion over what the BBC’s impartiality guidelines actually mean are thought to have been partly to blame for the chaos that has ensued since Lineker made his ‘Nazi’ jibe. 

BBC neutrality has come under recent scrutiny over revelations that its chairman, Richard Sharp – a Conservative Party donor – helped arrange a loan for then Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2021, weeks before Sharp was appointed to the BBC post on the government’s recommendation.

Former BBC Director General Greg Dyke said the network ‘undermined its own credibility’ by appearing to bow to government pressure.

Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said the BBC was ‘caving in’ to political pressure from Conservative lawmakers.

‘They got this one badly wrong and now they’re very, very exposed,’ he said.

MOTD2 host Mark Chapman pulled out of Radio 5 Live Sport, while Alex Scott boycotted Football Focus 

Former Tottenham Hotspur player Jermain Defoe said he would not appear on Match Of The Day 2 on Sunday evening

Director of Sport Barbara Slater apologised to her team for the chaos across the BBC this weekend

Fighting Talk presenter Colin Murray said he will not appear on Radio 5Live today


Kelly Somers Tweeted that she will not be appearing on the BBC today


Final Score presenter Jason Mohammad said he has informed the BBC that he will not be presenting on BBC One this afternoon


But the BBC’s issue may extend beyond their own employees, with Jurgen Klopp leading a managers and players boycott of the broadcaster this weekend. 

The Premier League has now let those from the 12 clubs playing on Saturday that MOTD will not request post-match interviews with managers or players. 

A PFA spokesperson said on the decision: ‘We have been informed that players involved in today’s games will not be asked to participate in interviews with Match of the Day.

‘The PFA have been speaking to members who wanted to take a collective position and to be able to show their support for those who have chosen not to be part of tonight’s programme.

‘During those conversations we made clear that, as their union, we would support all members who might face consequences for choosing not to complete their broadcast commitments.

‘This is a common sense decision that ensures players won’t now be put in that position.’

The people who joined the BBC boycott in ‘solidarity’ with Gary Lineker 

The BBC’s football coverage on Saturday was ripped up as several more presenters and reporters withdrew in solidarity with Gary Lineker after the Match of the Day presenter was stood down on Friday.

Neither Football Focus or Final Score went ahead on BBC One, while 5 Live’s radio coverage was also radically altered throughout the day.

Former England internationals Alan Shearer and Ian Wright announced on Friday their boycott of this weekend’s Match of the Day programme.

Here are the high-profile presenters and journalists who joined them on Saturday.

Alex Scott

The 38-year-old former Arsenal and England player was due to present Football Focus but said on Saturday morning that it ‘just doesn’t feel right going ahead with the show today’.

Scott has presented The One Show and has worked alongside Lineker in the past as a presenter of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year programme.

She was also a contestant on one of the corporation’s flagship entertainment shows, Strictly Come Dancing, in 2019.

Kelly Somers

In the wake of Scott’s announcement, Somers was seen as a potential contender to step in and present Football Focus but posted her own message on social media to say she would not be working for the BBC on Saturday.

Somers began her career in Bournemouth’s media team before joining the Premier League.

Since going freelance she has worked for numerous broadcasters, and was the host for the BBC’s coverage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and covered England at Euro 2020.

Jason Mohammad

Mohammad, 49, has presented Final Score since 2013.

The Welshman joined BBC Cymru Wales in 1997 and has also worked in rugby and snooker coverage, as well as deputising for Lineker and Mark Chapman on Match of the Day and Match of the Day 2.

Dion Dublin

Former Manchester United, Coventry and Aston Villa player Dublin is a regular on Football Focus, Match of the Day and Final Score.

He was due to be part of 5 Live’s Premier League coverage on Saturday but said he would not appear in ‘solidarity’ with his colleagues.

Dublin, 53, has built a growing media career in recent years, which extends to a presenting role on the BBC’s property show Homes Under The Hammer.

Leon Osman

Like Dublin, former Everton midfielder Osman announced he would not appear on 5 Live’s coverage as planned.

The 41-year-old is a regular pundit on the BBC, BT Sport and Sky Sports.

Colin Murray

It was not only the BBC’s Premier League coverage that was impacted on Saturday as morning talk show Fighting Talk was replaced by two football podcasts.

Murray, a former host of Match of the Day 2 who also works on the broadcaster’s music output, wrote on Twitter the decision was made ‘for obvious reasons’ and that it was taken by ‘the entire FT team and myself’.

Jermain Defoe

The first sign that the boycott will extend beyond Saturday’s coverage came when former England and Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe said he would not appear on Sunday evening’s Match of the Day 2.

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