Gary Lineker row ‘sparks BBC civil war’: Talent and management are split after Tim Davie ‘caved’ to MOTD host amid Nazi tweet furore – amid fears ex-footballer has ‘proved he’s bigger than the Beeb’ and ’emboldened other stars to score political points’
- There is a sense of anguish between BBC Sport employees and their hierarchy
- A snap poll revealed to Sportsmail showed a huge rift in the department
- The results saw 80% of respondents rate senior management zero out of five
Gary Lineker’s return has caused a split between staff and management at the BBC after bosses backed down from a row that saw him suspended from hosting Match of the Day – as fears grow more presenters will test impartiality rules.
BBC Sport is understood to have been split by an internal war after Lineker, 62, was reinstated following a backlash over a tweet comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.
He will return to TV screens to present live coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley on Saturday after a weekend of mutinous chaos in which fellow pundits and presenters walked out in solidarity.
Director general Tim Davie said he had taken ‘proportionate action’ over Lineker’s controversial tweet and insisted he had not backed down in the row.
But senior figures at the BBC fear the climb down will lead to a ‘free for all’ of presenters and reporters testing impartiality rules by expressing their political opinions online, The Telegraph reports.
Gary Lineker (pictured) will return to TV screens to present live coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley on Saturday
Director general Tim Davie said he had taken ‘proportionate action’ over Lineker’s controversial tweet
The tweet that landed Gary Lineker in hot trouble last week after he compared the language used to launch a new government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany
The corporation has said it is commissioning an independent review of its social media guidelines, particularly for freelancers, but this could take months.
Lee Anderson, deputy chairman of the Conservatives, described the BBC had been ‘spineless’ over its handling of the issue.
He said: ‘In football, no player is bigger than the club – but Lineker has shown he is bigger than the BBC.’
A senior BBC source also told The Telegraph: ‘One would hope he (Lineker) has heard and taken very carefully on board the damage that he has done.
‘This has not come to an end but I think that Tim Davie has come through it so far in one piece. It has been a violent business.’
Meanwhile, BBC stars are said to have taken the corporation’s decision to allow Lineker to return as a ‘victory’ and a sign that management is now weakened.
An employee said: ‘The BBC blinked first. You can feel the power draining away.’
It comes as insiders have disclosed a ‘huge rift’ in the BBC Sport department, with some outraged by the way the debacle played out and a snap poll seen by Sportsmail revealing overwhelming contempt for bosses.
On a day of unprecedented anger at the broadcaster’s Salford HQ, Sportsmail understands furious staff members confronted director of sport Barbara Slater over the way bosses dealt with the saga at a series of highly uncomfortable meetings.
The poll, presented to Slater, saw 80 per cent of respondents rate senior management zero out of five for the way they handled the situation.
There was also open incredulity at Slater when she claimed bosses could ‘not have seen how it would spiral’ after a host of pundits refused to work and brought the broadcaster to its knees after Lineker’s suspension.
There is an internal BBC war over the reinstatement of Match of the Day host Gary Lineker
An internal poll revealed to Sportsmail showed fury at the way the situation was handled
BBC director of sport Barbara Slater was confronted by furious staff members at Salford HQ
Criticism of Lineker was voiced, with Slater asked if he and other pundits were aware of the effect of their actions on staff.
Some asked why Match of the Day, which ended up being shown over 20, commentary-less minutes, could not have been presented by someone else. Slater, who apologised for the mess, triggered further ire when she responded: ‘Because he (Lineker) is the best in the business.’
READ MORE: Ian Wright and Alan Shearer WON’T face punishment for boycotting Match of the Day in support of Gary Lineker
Some staff are also angered by a perceived inconsistency. Sportsmail understands social media accounts are closely monitored by BBC officials, with some reprimanded if they as much as ‘like’ a political view on Twitter.
And there is frustration, made clear to Slater, that this was a mess of the BBC’s own making, along with scepticism that a review promised by director general Tim Davie will be effective.
Fury at a lack of leadership and communication was also raised, with many staff left in the dark until the last minute over whether shows would go ahead or not. Slater, who wanted the meetings to remain confidential, added she had ‘nothing but regret’ over events.
It comes as serving BBC journalists have accused Davie of being ‘so out of touch’ that he failed to foresee the chaos after Lineker was asked to step back from presenting Match of the Day.
In an interview with the BBC’s media correspondent David Sillito, director general Davie said he had taken ‘proportionate action’ over Lineker’s controversial tweet and insisted he had not backed down in the row.
But writing for BBC News, Mr Sillito said: ‘I asked Davie how was he so out of touch with his own corporation, staff and programmes that he did not foresee the chaos that would happen.’
He also said the impact on the BBC’s football coverage over the weekend was ‘a pretty clear sign there are many within the BBC who feel Lineker has been treated unfairly’.
Mr Sillito continued: ‘There are also those who are furious that such a highly-paid star of the BBC has not been punished for describing a statement by the home secretary on a key matter of public policy as “beyond awful” and comparing the language used to set out the government’s asylum plan to “that used by Germany in the 30s”.
‘Nor has there been an apology from Lineker for tweets that the BBC says broke its guidelines.’
There was also scepticism at the effectiveness of a review promised by director Tim Davie
Staff made clear to Slater (R) there was frustration at how Lineker’s situation (L) was handled
Davie suspended Lineker after he compared Government language on asylum seekers to Germany in the 1930s. That triggered a boycott by top names including Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Mark Chapman.
Radio 5 Live programmes were also scrapped, including the 606 phone-ins and build-up to Saturday and Sunday matches.
Commentators Ian Dennis, Alistair Bruce-Ball and John Murray covered games for 5 Live in circumstances laced with intense pressure. They were subjected to online abuse, with some branding them ‘scabs’.
On Monday, Davie said sorry to those impacted, announcing a review on social media guidelines. Lineker will be back for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final between Burnley and Manchester City.
‘Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences,’ Davie said. ‘I apologise for this.’
Lineker tweeted: ‘After a surreal few days, I’m delighted we have navigated a way through this.
‘I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity.
‘Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.’
Chapman told Monday Night Club on 5 Live: ‘This weekend has been miserable and difficult for everyone involved.
‘It is ironic that in a row over impartiality we have all been seen to be taking sides and I feel there are lessons to be learnt by all involved.’
His colleague, Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton, added: ‘I’m glad the situation has been resolved.’
The BBC have received widespread criticism over their handling of the situation, including from broadcaster Piers Morgan and Sportsmail’s Simon Jordan.
Morgan felt the organisation had handled the situation poorly, telling talkSPORT: ‘It’s not a debate about impartiality as much as it’s a debate about free speech.
‘Gary Lineker is not a BBC employee, he’s a freelancer, and like many freelancers who do stuff for the BBC, he reserves the right to have his opinions on his twitter feed.’
While Jordan also said on the radio station: ‘What they [BBC] did was handle it in a disastrously poor way, they didn’t communicate it properly, it looks like it’s been handed down from the Tories – and it may well have been.
‘It may well have been a directive from the Tory government, saying “we don’t like this”, and clearly some people think it is. I don’t care if that’s the case, but what do need to have is a BBC that operates with clear guidelines.’
The people who first joined the BBC boycott in ‘solidarity’ with Gary Lineker
The BBC’s football coverage on Saturday was ripped up as several more presenters and reporters withdrew in solidarity with Gary Lineker after the Match of the Day presenter was stood down on Friday.
Neither Football Focus or Final Score went ahead on BBC One, while 5 Live’s radio coverage was also radically altered throughout the day.
Former England internationals Alan Shearer and Ian Wright announced on Friday their boycott of this weekend’s Match of the Day programme.
Here are the high-profile presenters and journalists who were first to join them on Saturday.
The 38-year-old former Arsenal and England player was due to present Football Focus but said on Saturday morning that it ‘just doesn’t feel right going ahead with the show today’.
Scott has presented The One Show and has worked alongside Lineker in the past as a presenter of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year programme.
She was also a contestant on one of the corporation’s flagship entertainment shows, Strictly Come Dancing, in 2019.
In the wake of Scott’s announcement, Somers was seen as a potential contender to step in and present Football Focus but posted her own message on social media to say she would not be working for the BBC on Saturday.
Somers began her career in Bournemouth’s media team before joining the Premier League.
Since going freelance she has worked for numerous broadcasters, and was the host for the BBC’s coverage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and covered England at Euro 2020.
Mohammad, 49, has presented Final Score since 2013.
The Welshman joined BBC Cymru Wales in 1997 and has also worked in rugby and snooker coverage, as well as deputising for Lineker and Mark Chapman on Match of the Day and Match of the Day 2.
Former Manchester United, Coventry and Aston Villa player Dublin is a regular on Football Focus, Match of the Day and Final Score.
He was due to be part of 5 Live’s Premier League coverage on Saturday but said he would not appear in ‘solidarity’ with his colleagues.
Dublin, 53, has built a growing media career in recent years, which extends to a presenting role on the BBC’s property show Homes Under The Hammer.
Like Dublin, former Everton midfielder Osman announced he would not appear on 5 Live’s coverage as planned.
The 41-year-old is a regular pundit on the BBC, BT Sport and Sky Sports.
It was not only the BBC’s Premier League coverage that was impacted on Saturday as morning talk show Fighting Talk was replaced by two football podcasts.
Murray, a former host of Match of the Day 2 who also works on the broadcaster’s music output, wrote on Twitter the decision was made ‘for obvious reasons’ and that it was taken by ‘the entire FT team and myself’.
The first sign that the boycott will extend beyond Saturday’s coverage came when former England and Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe said he would not appear on Sunday evening’s Match of the Day 2.
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