Gary Lineker Told To Step Back From BBC’s ‘Match Of The Day’ After Tweets Slamming UK Government

Gary Lineker, the BBC’s highest-paid presenter, is to temporarily step back from Premier League highlights show Match of the Day after breaking the broadcaster’s impartiality rules on Twitter.

The BBC announced the dramatic decision on Friday afternoon after “extensive discussions” with Lineker, in which the sports presenter was told that his tweet comparing UK government policy to Nazi Germany was unacceptable.

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On Tuesday, Lineker railed at “beyond awful” government plans to stop small boats carrying asylum seekers from arriving on British shores.

He later added: “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.”

The BBC said Lineker was being benched while it figured out how the presenter can voice his views on social media in a way that is compatible with the corporation’s duty to impartiality.

It comes despite Lineker telling his 8.7M Twitter followers on Thursday that he would be hosting Match of the Day as usual on Saturday. Lineker has repeatedly defended his original tweets.

Deadline reported earlier this week that BBC insiders were furious with Lineker for his “egregious” breach of impartiality rules. Some called for him to be suspended.

Others rushed to support their colleague. Ian Wright, the former England striker, said he was boycotting Match of the Day after the BBC took Lineker off air.

The BBC said: “The BBC has been in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days. We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be 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.

“When it comes to leading our football and sports coverage, Gary is second to none. We have never said that Gary should be an opinion free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.”

BBC journalists are held to a higher standard of impartiality than non-news presenters like Lineker, though all have been told that their social media activity “can affect perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality.”

Lineker was deemed to have broken BBC impartiality rules last October after tweeting his views on the Conservative Party accepting donations from Russia. The BBC said Lineker had “additional responsibility” because of his high profile and reminded him that employees should “avoid taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.”

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