As Gary Lineker takes a step back from Match of the Day, a debate has erupted over whether or not the BBC is justified in implementing its social media policy on the star.
Now, a resurfaced interview is showing Lineker, 62, claiming he was never told he could, or could not, tweet about something controversial by Tim Davie, the director general of the BBC.
In a September 2021 interview with Ross Atkins for The Media Show, Lineker addressed his use of Twitter while working as a freelancer for BBC, saying he did not think the impartiality rule applied to him.
“[Davie] never called me up and said, ‘you can’t tweet about that’ or ‘you can’t tweet about this,’” Lineker told Atkins.
But on Friday, BBC announced Lineker would “step back from presenting Match of the Day” until they could reach an “agreed and clear position on his use of social media.”
The announcement comes shortly after Lineker was criticised for not remaining impartial while tweeting about the government’s new small boats policy.
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Lineker responded to a video of Suella Braverman announcing the policy saying, “Good heavens, this is beyond awful.” He also compared the language used in the government’s launch to 1930s Germany.
In a statement, the BBC said they had been, “in extensive discussions” with Lineker and his team about his tweets.
“We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines,” the BBC said.
The BBC has a policy all staff must follow when it comes to using social media.
But as a freelancer, it is unclear if Lineker is subject to that same rule. Many believe he should not be as he is a sports pundit, not a news broadcaster.
“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,” the BBC said in a statement.
Friday evening, BBC announced that there will be no studio presentation or pundit for Saturday's Match of the Day, instead, it will "focus on the action."
A BBC spokesperson said they "understood" the pundits' position in standing in solidarity with Lineker.
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