BBC host Gary Lineker removes Israel football ban post amid pressure

BBC host Gary Lineker removes Israel football ban post amid pressure
Lineker removed a post calling for Israel to be banned from international football amid a backlash that included inferences of antisemitism on his part.
2 min read
18 January, 2024
Gary Lineker has come under considerable attack in the past for speaking out on contentious issues [Getty]

Prominent British sports presenter and former England star Gary Lineker removed a social media post on Tuesday that called for Israel to be banned from international football, after receiving backlash from Israel supporters online.

Lineker, who hosts BBC's Match of the Day, had retweeted a post from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) to his 8.9 million followers on X, calling for international pressure on sports bodies like FIFA to suspend Israel's membership.

This call for action stemmed from the group’s recognition of Israel's "grave violations of international law", including the accusation of genocide in Gaza – something for which it is being accused by South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and if successful would see Israel banned from international football.

Lineker allegedly removed the post as he mistook it for a news update about Israel being banned from international sports, rather than a campaign advocating for such a ban. He reportedly did not intend to take a position on the issue.

The BBC recently introduced guidelines that allows its high-profile staff and presenters to express political opinions publicly, so long as they stop short of campaigning for or against political parties or individual UK politicians, or engage in debate during UK elections.

Linker’s post therefore did not violate the terms of such guidelines, but it did enrage prominent supporters of Israel.

This includes the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) and politicians from the Conservative Party, many of whom have been angered by the former England striker’s previous political posts criticising their government.

The CAA inferred that Lineker’s retweet of the PACBI statement reflected more sinister intentions, accusing him of neglecting issues of antisemitism while amplifying a call to ban "the world’s only Jewish state" from football.

Supporters of PACBI and its umbrella movement Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement have said that banning Israel from football and other cultural and sporting events has precedent, pointing at FIFA's ban on Russian clubs from international competitions after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

They claim inferences or accusations of antisemitism used against boycotts are a cynical slur aimed at stifling criticism of Israel’s conduct in Gaza and across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel’s current war on Gaza has killed almost 25,000 people and left much of the Palestinian territory uninhabitable.