(CNN) The BBC’s weekend football coverage has been plunged into chaos following its announcement Gary Lineker He will “back off” from presenting after being embroiled in a non-partisan row when he criticized British government policy on Twitter.
The broadcaster is now facing a boycott from pundits, presenters and players of its flagship football program “Match of the Day”, while other football programs – Football Focus and Final Score – and some radio programs have gone off air as a result. of outrage.
Lineker criticized the government’s controversial new asylum seeker policy on Tuesday and then stepped down from his duties this week after the BBC said his tweets breached its guidelines, specifically its commitment to “impartiality”.
The BBC’s decision has sparked controversy, drawing criticism from opposition politicians, the BECTU union representing BBC staff and its former director-general Greg Dyke.
“The BBC will only be able to bring a limited range of sports programs this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that,” a BBC spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday.
“We regret these changes are disappointing for BBC Sport fans.
“We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.”
On Tuesday, Linegar tweeted, “Good heavens, this is awful,” in response to a video posted on Twitter by the British Home Office announcing the new proposed policy. Try A move to stop migrant boats crossing the English Channel from France has been criticized by the United Nations and other world bodies.
He added: “There is no mass immigration. We take far fewer refugees than any other major European country. This is an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in a language that is not the same as the one used in Germany in the 30s. Am I not correct?”
As Britain’s public broadcaster, the BBC is bound by “impartiality” — a highly debatable term. Defines Because it holds “power to account consistently” without “allowing us to use it to campaign to change public policy.”
On Friday, the BBC announced that Lineker would “step back from presenting Match of the Day until it has an agreed and clear stance on the use of social media”, and that it considers his recent social media activity to be in breach of its guidelines.
In response, first pundits, then commentators, then even Premier League teams announced their intention to boycott the show in favor of Linegar.
BBC commentators Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robin Cowan and Steven Wyeth said in a joint statement released late on Friday that “in the circumstances, we do not think it is appropriate to participate in the programme”.
Former England striker Jermain Defoe announced on Saturday that he would not be appearing as a pundit on Sunday’s show.
“It’s always been a privilege to work with the BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I’ve decided to step down from my punditry duties. @GaryLineker,” Defoe said. He tweeted that.
Defoe’s announcement appears to be the first sign that the British broadcaster’s Sunday TV shows will also be affected.
Meanwhile, the Professional Footballers Association declared On Saturday “players involved in today’s games will not be asked to participate in interviews for Match of the Day.”
“The PFA is talking to members who want to take a collective stand and show their support for those who chose not to be part of tonight’s show,” the statement added.
“During those conversations, we made it clear that, as their union, we will support all members who may face consequences for not completing their broadcasting obligations. This is a common-sense decision to ensure that players will no longer be put in that position.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was asked about the issue by the BBC following his side’s 1-0 defeat against Bournemouth on Saturday.
“I don’t see any reason to ask anyone to back down for saying that. I don’t know if it’s a language issue or not,” the German told reporters.
“If I understand it correctly, it is about a concept of human rights that can be said.
“I don’t understand why everybody goes on Twitter and says something. I don’t understand the social media part of it, but maybe it is. [because] I’m too old for that.
A political order
Greg Dyke, the BBC’s former director-general, said the broadcaster had “undermined its credibility” by suspending Lineker because he appeared to have “bowed to government pressure”.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, told the BBC “it was badly misunderstood and now they are very, very exposed”.
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland He tweeted that: “As a strong supporter of public service broadcasting, I want to defend the BBC. But the decision to air Gary Lineker is indisputable. It undermines freedom of speech in the face of political pressure – & it always seems right-wing pressure undermines it.”
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labor Party, also slammed the BBC’s decision in a tweet on Saturday.
“The BBC’s cowardly decision to air Gary Lineker is an attack on free speech in the face of political pressure from Tory politicians. They should reconsider,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, ruling Conservative MP and former culture secretary Nadine Dorries welcomed the BBC’s decision. Tweeting: “The news that Gary Lineker has been suspended for investigation is welcome and shows the BBC’s commitment to impartiality.
“Gary is entitled to his opinions — freedom of speech is paramount. Many non-public service broadcasters could accommodate him and his opinions, and he would be better paid.”