Gary Lineker to return to Match of the Day after BBC suspension | BBC

Gary Lineker is to return to presenting sport on the BBC after he was taken off air for criticising the language used by ministers when discussing the government’s asylum policy.

Tim Davie, the director general of the BBC, apologised on Monday for the widespread disruption to sports programming over the weekend, and announced an independent review of the corporation’s internal social media guidelines.

“Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences,” said Davie. “I apologise for this. The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air.”

Davie, who was responsible for introducing tough social media guidelines for staff following government pressure, said it was difficult to balance the BBC’s commitments to both impartiality and freedom of expression.

The corporation’s existing social media guidelines are meant to govern BBC staff and presenters who work on news and politics, not those in others areas, such as sport. Also, Lineker works for the corporation in a freelance capacity.

“Impartiality is important to the BBC,” said Davie. “It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its charter and a commitment to freedom of expression. That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on-air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles.”

Davie announced a review of his social media policy, to be led by an independent expert, which will have a “particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs”.

Lineker, the BBC’s highest-paid presenter, who receives £1.35m annually, welcomed the review and said he was keen to get back to presenting duties, including Match of the Day.

“I am glad that we have found a way forward,” he said in the joint statement with Davie. “I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”

After the statement was released, Lineker tweeted his thanks for support of colleagues after a “surreal few days”. Pundits, led by Ian Wright, had refused to appear on Match of the Day while Lineker was suspended. Commentators also joined in, plunging BBC Sport’s coverage into chaos.

Lineker also said that “however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away”.

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After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that 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. 1/4

— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 13, 2023

I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost 3 decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday. 2/4

— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 13, 2023

A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you. 3/4

— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 13, 2023

We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you. ❤️ 4/4

— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 13, 2023

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