Lineker makes BBC return after impartiality row
LONDON, March 19 — Gary Lineker was back at work for the BBC on Saturday after a row over impartiality sparked by his criticism of the UK government’s new asylum policy was resolved.
The former England footballer was taken off air by bosses at the publicly-funded broadcaster last weekend after comparing the launch of the Conservatives’ new policy to the rhetoric of Nazi-era Germany.
His removal sparked chaos across the BBC’s sporting coverage as presenters, pundits and commentators showed their backing for Lineker by refusing to work.
A compromise was reached on Monday as the two sides said they had agreed that Lineker would return to screens while the corporation launches an independent review into its social media guidelines.
Lineker, who is the BBC’s highest paid presenter, said “it’s great to be here” as he fronted live coverage of Manchester City’s FA Cup quarter-final against Burnley.
Former England captain Alan Shearer was one of the pundits to pull out from his role last weekend and welcomed a return to “normality”.
“I just need to clear up and say how upset we were for all the audiences that missed out last weekend,” said Shearer.
“It was a really difficult situation for all concerned and, through no fault of their own, some really good people in TV and radio were put in an impossible situation that wasn’t fair.
“It’s good to get back to some sort of normality and talk about the football.”
Lineker’s duties at the Etihad Stadium mean he will not be in the hot seat for the BBC’s flagship Premier League highlights show Match of the Day later on Saturday.
The world’s longest-running football television programme was broadcast for the first time last Saturday without a presenter, pundits or even commentary, with only crowd noise accompanying a 20-minute highlights package. — AFP