English football icon Gary Lineker is set to return to Match Of The Day for the FA Cup next week after crunch talks with the BBC over the Nazi tweet row.
The 62-year-old expert commentator refused to address the ongoing row over his inflammatory posts comparing the government’s new Illegal Migration Bill to 1930s Nazi Germany, which saw him taken off air.
Asked whether he still wanted to work at the network or if he was in talks with the director general about his future, the ex-England star simply stated: “I can’t say anything.”
But, just hours later it was revealed he is likely to return to TV in a matter of days — with sources saying BBC boss Tim Davie wants Lineker back on the telly.
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The broadcasting giant has been brought to its knees by the crisis with a number of shows cancelled or slashed while star football personalities boycotted their own shows.
Now the situation has pulled back from the brink and a resolution has appeared on the horizon.
The Telegraph reports: “Tim Davie has been clear that he wants to resolve the situation and see the MOTD presenter back on air.
“Gary and his representatives have been in talks for a number of days and these are ongoing.”
Lineker was told to step back from hosting Match Of The Day while bosses try to get him to agree to stop posting political messages online, The Sun reports.
His likening of Tory immigration rhetoric and Nazi Germany sparked outrage in some quarters – with Home Secretary Suella Braverman claiming his comments diminished the tragedy of the Holocaust.
It was said to break the BBC’s strict impartiality rules which state that staff must “avoid taking sides on political controversies” and “take care when addressing public policy matters”.
BBC pundits and commentators refused to work following the backlash, deciding to support longstanding presenter Lineker.
It caused a football blackout, with several TV and radio programs, including the Saturday edition of Match of the Day, Football Focus and Final Score, disrupted or forced off air following a boycott by figures like Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Alex Scott.
Sunday night’s edition of MOTD2 will air – but without presenters or commentary.
The Beeb does not have the rights required to use world feed commentary, an issue that saw last night’s 20-minute broadcast go without.
Commentator Guy Mowbray tweeted: “As yesterday, there will be no ‘normal’ MOTD(2) program tonight.
“The scheduled commentary team are in full agreement with our BBC Sport colleagues. We hope that a resolution can be found ASAP.”
Tonight’s program will show only highlights of Manchester United vs Southampton, West Ham vs Aston Villa and Fulham vs Arsenal and Newcastle vs Wolves.
There was also no pre-game chat before this afternoon’s Women’s Super League clash between Chelsea and Manchester United amid the storm.
It follows several last-minute timetable changes yesterday which resulted in Football Focus and Final Score being scrapped from the BBC One schedule.
MOTD, which Lineker has hosted for almost 25 years, was cut to just 20 minutes, with no commentary, analysis or interviews.
It also went out without its famous theme tune – instead broadcasting only short highlight clips of the day’s matches.
It did, however, see its viewing figures soar by 500,000 to 2.6million – the highest number since November 2022.
MOT2 will take a similar “reduced” format at 10:30pm after host Mark Chapman decided not to present for BBC Radio 5 Live Sport on Saturday and pundit Jermain Defoe announced he would not appear on the Sunday highlights program.
BBC Radio 5 Live was yesterday forced to cancel its coverage of Saturday’s football after Chapman, 59, and co-presenter Colin Murray, 46, pulled out in support of Lineker.
It followed similar boycotts from other high-profile names, including Kelly Somers and Jason Mohammad, who stood down in solidarity with Lineker.
The BBC said it would air only “limited sport programming” over the weekend and was “working hard to resolve the situation”.
In a statement, a spokesperson said: “We are sorry for these changes which we recognise will be disappointing for BBC sport fans.”
BBC’s Davie later apologised personally for the disruption to the sport schedule but insisted he will not resign from his role.
On Saturday, Bargain Hunt aired in place of Football Focus on BBC One at noon, while The Repair Shop ran instead of Final Score at 4.30pm.
BBC presenter Murray tweeted that 5 Live’s Fighting Talk was not airing “for obvious reasons” in a decision by the entire team.
Pre-recorded content replaced the live broadcasts, with Kammy & Ben’s Proper Football Podcast aired during Fighting Talk’s slot followed by The Footballer’s Football Podcast, which played on Radio 5 Live when 5 Live Sport would have aired.
The 606 phone-in show with Robbie Savage and Chris Sutton was also pulled, replaced by a Eurovision podcast.
Pundit Glenn Murray pulled out of appearing on Football Focus and Final Score on Saturday while fellow former players Dion Dublin and Leon Osman were among those announcing their absence from coverage.
Mohammad also confirmed he would not be hosting Final Score.
BBC protest causes anarchy
On Friday evening, several MOTD commentators shared a joint statement online, announcing they would be stepping down from Saturday’s broadcast.
The group, including Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen and Steven Wyeth, said they did “not feel it would be appropriate to take part in the program” given the current circumstances.
Ian Dennis, a BBC employee, did cover Leeds against Brighton for 5 Live radio but said it was a “very difficult day”.
Lineker was taken off air for a tweet which compared the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy tackling evil people traffickers with Nazi Germany.
The broadcaster said it had “decided” Lineker would take a break from presenting the highlights program until an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media had been reached.
Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke said the corporation had made a “mistake” and “undermined its own credibility” by taking Lineker off air.
A spokesman for the Professional Footballers’ Association said in a statement on Twitter that it had “been informed that players involved in Saturday’s games will not be asked to participate in interviews with Match Of The Day”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he hopes the free speech row ends “in a timely manner”- but that it was a matter for the BBC, not Government.
Conservative politicians have lined up to slam Mr Lineker, who is on a taxpayer-funded salary of £1,350,000.
Jeremy Hunt today said he “profoundly disagrees” with the controversial comments made.
The Chancellor told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News: “I disagree with Gary Lineker on small boats profoundly.
“I personally think that he was wrong to say what he said.”
MP Simon Clarke echoed his words, telling the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “I disagree very profoundly with what Gary Lineker said.
“I think the comparisons to 1930s as he’s made are deeply inappropriate and actually very tasteless.”
Asked why it matters what a sports presenter says, he replied: “Mr Lineker has a huge reach and the reality is that he is obviously operating on a publicly-funded broadcaster, he is someone whose platform largely derives from his role at the BBC, he’s saying things which are partisan and I think which are also deeply unfair.”
e called the situation a “mess” and said the BBC needs to resolve “ambiguity” in its guidelines as Lineker is freelance a sports presenter, not a political journalist.
Mr Clarke continued: “I don’t like cancel culture of any kind, I don’t like to see people being taken off air.”
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer also waded into the row, saying: “The BBC has a 10-point plan in relation to impartiality.
“It is absolutely important that it maintains impartiality so that the public retains trust in it.”
In the Commons, DUP MP Gregory Campbell called for “multimillionaire lefty Lineker” to have his pay docked.
And Red Wall MP Brendan Clarke-Smith said: “Whilst the elderly lost their free licence, the BBC have now given Gary Lineker a different sort of free license – one that allows him to say what he wants, when he wants and without fear of sanction.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinions, but as a public service broadcaster you would expect the BBC to hold him to the same standards they would expect from other members of their staff, who would not get away with such appalling comparisons.”
The Illegal Migration Bill bans migrants who arrive on small boats from ever settling in Britain.
The legislation will see migrants swiftly detained and removed to either their country of origin or a safe third state within 28 days.Ms Braverman has repeatedly insisted the plan does not break the law, and said the country’s top legal minds have worked day and night to ensure it’s feasible.
— This story originally appeared on thesun.co.uk and has been republished with permission