Gary Lineker reinstated at BBC after controversy over migration tweet


LONDON – Britain’s state broadcaster and its highest-paid presenter announced on Monday that they had reached a deal to bring sports legend Gary Lineker back on air after he was suspended for criticizing the government’s migration policy.

The fight between the BBC and Lineker – the two national institutions – has sparked a heated debate in the UK about freedom of speech and impartiality after former soccer star Lineker, who now hosts Match of the Day, tweeted about the government’s new asylum policy. .

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“After a few surreal days, I’m so glad we’ve finally made it this far. I’d like to thank you all for your incredible support, especially my colleagues at BBC Sport. “Football is a team game but their support was great,” Lineker tweeted on Monday.

BBC director-general Tim Davey apologized and said the broadcaster would launch an independent review of its social media guidelines, focusing on freelancers like Lineker.

“Everyone knows that this has been a difficult time for the staff, creators, presenters and, most importantly, our audience. I apologize for this,” he said.

The BBC is funded by British taxpayers and has a duty to be impartial in its news reporting and has strict guidelines on the use of social media. Many have questioned whether this also applies to freelancers and those working outside of news and current affairs. Others pointed to cases where other BBC presenters have spoken out and not been sacked, including Britain’s The Apprentice presenter Alan Sugar, who criticized the union boss over the strike.

Critics have also pointed out that BBC chairman Richard Sharpe is being investigated for his role in a $966,000 loan to Boris Johnson. Sharpe was appointed to his BBC role in 2021 at the recommendation of the then Johnson government.

Lineker’s Match of the Day show highlights from Premier League football matches. Before he became the BBC’s highest-paid presenter – he earned $1.6 million in 2022 – he was a famous sports star, playing for several top teams, as well as for England, where he scored 48 goals in 80 matches for his country.

The storm clouds descended last Tuesday after Lineker tweeted about the government’s immigration policy from his account, which has more than 8 million followers.

“This is an immeasurably cruel policy aimed at the most vulnerable in a language not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s, and am I out of business?”

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The BBC announced on Friday that he would be stepping down from his presenting duties. Several colleagues at the BBC also walked out in solidarity, leading to disruptions to sports coverage over the weekend.

On Monday, Lineker made another reference to migrants in a tweet. “As difficult as the last few days have been, it is nothing compared to fleeing persecution or war and seeking refuge in a faraway country.”

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