BBC reaches deal with Gary Lineker after Twitter row
Gary Lineker will return as presenter of the flagship BBC football show Match of the Day, the broadcaster said on Monday, ending a crisis sparked by his criticism of the UK government's new asylum policy.
The former England footballer was suspended on Friday after using Twitter last week to compare the language used to launch the new policy to the rhetoric of Nazi-era Germany.
His comments and removal sparked days of frenzied media coverage, that escalated on Friday after fellow presenters, pundits and commentators refused to work over the weekend in support.
That threw the publicly funded broadcaster's sports coverage into disarray, curtailing its highlights package to just 20 minutes, without commentary or analysis.
But on Monday the two sides said they had come to an agreement that would see Lineker return to screens and the launch of an internal review into the corporation's social media guidelines.
"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," said BBC director-general Tim Davie.
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. 1/4— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 13, 2023
In a joint statement, Lineker, 62, said: "I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air."
He tweeted separately that the last few days, during which he has been mobbed outside by London home by reporters, photographers and camera crews, had been "surreal".
But in a parting shot he added: "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."
Davie apologised for the disruption to the service, saying he recognised the "potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC's social media guidance".
"Impartiality is important to the BBC. That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles," he said.
The independent review will look at how the guidance applies to staff and freelancers such as Lineker, he added.