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File image of Gary Lineker. Alamy Stock Photo

BBC director-general apologises for 'disruption', but does not resign over Gary Lineker row

‘I’s been a difficult day and I’m sorry that audiences have been affected,’ said director-general Tim Davie.

LAST UPDATE | 12 Mar 2023

THE BBC DIRECTOR-GENERAL has apologised for the disruption caused to the broadcaster’s sports programming yesterday, but confirmed he will not resign over the Gary Lineker impartiality row.

Lineker was told to step back from hosting yesterday’s Match Of The Day after he compared the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany in a tweet.

The broadcaster previously said it had “decided” the former England player would take a break from presenting the football highlights show until an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media had been reached.

Speaking to BBC News in Washington, DC yesterday, director-general Tim Davie said: “I’m very sorry for the disruption today. It’s been a difficult day and I’m sorry that audiences have been affected and they haven’t got the programming.

“As a keen sports fan, I know like everyone that to miss programming is a real blow and I am sorry about that.

“We are working very hard to resolve the situation and make sure that we get output back on air.”

tim-davie-new-director-general-of-the-bbc-arrives-at-bbc-scotland-in-glasgow-for-his-first-day-in-the-role File image of BBC director-general Tim Davie. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The director-general said that he would not go into too much detail about the discussions being had, but that “everyone wants to calmly resolve the situation”.

“I would say Gary Lineker is a superb broadcaster. He’s the best in the business, that’s not for debate,” he added.

“To be clear, success for me is: Gary gets back on air and together we are giving to the audiences that world-class sports coverage which, as I say, I’m sorry we haven’t been able to deliver today.”

Davie also said that he does not feel this is about “left or right” politics, but about the corporation’s ability to balance free speech and impartiality, adding: “We’re fierce champions of democratic debate, free speech, but with that comes the need to create an impartial organisation.”

Asked if he would resign as “there are many people in the UK that simply do not trust you”, Mr Davie said: “Absolutely not.

“I think my job is to serve licence fee payers and deliver a BBC that is really focused on world-class, impartial landmark output – and I look forward to resolving this situation and looking forward to delivering that.”


When asked if Lineker would have been removed from air had he praised the government’s asylum seeker policy, Davie replied: “I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.”

A snap YouGov poll has said 53% of the British public think the BBC was wrong to suspend Lineker from Match Of The Day following his comments on the Government’s asylum policy.

The data found also that 27% thought the broadcaster was right to suspend him – while 20% did not know.

Yesterday, British prime minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement that the row surrounding Lineker and the BBC is “a matter for them, not the Government”, as he acknowledged “not everyone will always agree” with his new asylum policy.

Davie was also asked by BBC’s Nomia Iqbal about BBC chairman Richard Sharp, who has faced growing calls to resign his position over the cronyism row caused by him helping Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 (€904,000) loan facility.

Reflecting on why Sharp still had a job, he said: “In terms of the chairman, I have a lot of responsibilities in this job for thousands of people, one thing I don’t do is the appointment as the chair.

“The way in which the board is hired and that role is a different thing to editorially me running the BBC, making those decisions, trying to be fair, and getting a BBC that is truly impartial.”


Last night’s Match Of The Day aired for only 20 minutes and did not include accompanying commentary or analysis from pundits or even its famous theme tune – instead broadcasting only short highlight clips of the day’s matches.

Ahead of the show starting, a continuity announcer said: “Now on BBC One, we’re sorry that we’re unable to show our normal Match Of The Day including commentary tonight. But here now is the best action from today’s Premier League matches.”

Several of the broadcaster’s other football shows were pulled at the last minute yesterday as more presenters and reporters withdrew, with neither Football Focus nor Final Score airing – while BBC 5 Live’s radio coverage was radically altered throughout the day.

Further doubt was cast as sports broadcaster Mark Chapman, who is due to host Match Of The Day 2, did not present for BBC Radio 5 Live Sport yesterday.

Gabby Logan is also due to host live coverage from 2.15pm as Scotland play Ireland at Murrayfield for the Six Nations Rugby.

The Welsh presenter has not yet commented on whether she will present the show or not.

The Women’s Football Show is also scheduled to air from 11.45pm for more than 40 minutes, but it could also be affected by the BBC only airing “limited sport programming” this weekend.

Lineker will not ‘back down’

Gary Lineker’s son has said he thinks the sports presenter will return to Match Of The Day – but that he would not “back down on his word”, according to reports.

In an interview with The Sunday Mirror, the former England player’s eldest son George claimed his father had been “a bit disappointed” by the BBC asking him to step back from hosting Saturday’s Match Of The Day (MOTD) after he compared the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany in a tweet.

However, he said Lineker had been “overwhelmed by the support” of fellow pundits who had withdrawn from various BBC sports shows in solidarity with him, particularly his MOTD co-presenters Ian Wright and Alan Shearer.

George Lineker told The Sunday Mirror: “Dad is a good man, a good human, and I’m proud of him for standing by his word. That’s why he was pulled off the show – because he wouldn’t apologise. But he will always speak up for people who don’t have a voice.

“He is passionate about helping refugee charities – he took in two refugees who he is still in touch with and trying to help.

“It means a lot to him to stand up for people whose only hope is to escape a country with only the clothes on their back. That’s why he’s been so firm.

“Will he go back to Match of the Day? I think so – he loves Match of the Day. But he won’t ever back down on his word.”

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