How the Gary Lineker and Match of the Day chaos unfolded – and the repercussions for the BBC
Gary Lineker will not present Match of the Day on Saturday night
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The BBC and the presenters were planning to go ahead with Match of the Day as normal up until Friday lunchtime, before the broadcaster attempted to get Gary Lineker to agree to a solution that was seen as unacceptable by the flagship host. It left the corporation scrambling to find an alternative team as late as Friday evening, having been rejected by a series of figures within the industry.
The Independent has been told that the BBC hierarchy, above BBC Sport, wanted Lineker to agree to a public statement that would have essentially amounted to an apology and an expression that he would be more careful of social media, which sources close to the situation said would have been rightly seen as the presenter “humiliating himself”.
It was consequently the BBC’s decision to take him off Match of the Day. Lineker had already been in contact with Ian Wright, when the former Arsenal striker told the host that he would fully back him if anything changed and be prepared to walk from the show.
The programme team had nevertheless pressed on with their usual run-through meeting on Friday afternoon, with the only provision made for the controversy being for the presenters to arrive at alternative studio entrances on Saturdy, due to the anticipated presence of photographers. The situation drastically changed by 4.15pm, as Lineker had by then spoken with BBC hierarchy figures above sport.
It was after this that Lineker began to inform others that he had been told he would not be presenting the show. Figures around Match of the Day were at this point still trying to salvage the programme, reflecting a difference in position between BBC Sport and the wider organisation.
Wright had naturally already taken his decision that he would not be available, and informed Alan Shearer, who similarly felt he had no option. Two sources talk of how the entire situation – which could have far greater repercussions for the BBC and Match of the Day – “changed in minutes”.
While there is now great uncertainty over what will happen to the established team, and whether this continues for another week, a more immediate problem is what to do for Saturday night’s programme.
As of 6.30pm on Friday evening, Match of the Day were struggling for a presenting team, having been turned down by a series of figures in the industry. The view from one broadcasting figure was that “anyone who goes on would be seen as a scab and rightly get hammered on social media”.
The widespread feeling was that the BBC had “unnecessarily backed themselves into a corner” potentially at the threat of a decades-old football brand.
The Independent has contacted the BBC for comment.
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