BBC Sport under criticism after taking Lineker off air over asylum row
The BBC faces trouble after banning Gary Lineker from presenting the Match of the Day for bashing the British government's anti-immigration policy.
The BBC's sports service faced criticism on Saturday as pundits and commentators refused to work in support of presenter Gary Lineker, who was forced to "step back" after accusing the government of using Nazi-era rhetoric.
Match of the Day presenter Lineker, England's fourth most prolific goalscorer, sparked an impartiality row by criticizing the British government's new policy on tackling illegal immigration.
The 62-year-old compared the language used to launch the new policy to that of Nazi-era Germany on Twitter, which the BBC said on Friday was a "breach of our guidelines."
"The BBC has decided that he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we've got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media," the broadcaster announced in a statement.
As a result, pundits and former England strikers Ian Wright and Alan Shearer immediately tweeted that they would not take part in the program either. Wright then said on his podcast on Saturday that he would quit the BBC if Lineker was sacked for good.
The BBC announced that the highlights show, a Saturday night fixture since 1964 and the longest-running football television program in the world, would air without pundits or a presenter for the first time.
It also said players would not be asked for interviews after some indicated they would not be available in support of Lineker.
The row was sparked by Lineker's response to a video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.
Lineker, the BBC's highest-paid star, wrote on Twitter: "This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the '30s."
There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 7, 2023
Under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the Conservative government intends to outlaw asylum claims by all illegal arrivals and transfer them elsewhere, such as Rwanda, in a bid to stop the crossings, which totaled more than 45,000 last year.
A YouGov poll published on Monday showed 50% backing the measures, with 36 % opposed.
But rights groups and the United Nations said the legislation would make Britain an international outlaw under European and UN conventions on asylum.
It is noteworthy that BBC Director-General Tim Davie warned staff about their use of social media when he took on the role at the end of 2020.
Lineker, a former Barcelona, Tottenham, and Everton player, has hosted refugees at his home and has previously been vocal in his criticism of the government's handling of migrant crossings.
Read more: France joins UK in controversial 'asylum ban' draft bill talks