Gary Lineker regrets tweet that sparked enormous BBC impartiality row

Match of the Day host Gary Lineker says he regrets a controversial tweet that sparked an enormous impartiality row at the BBC.

The 62-year-old was taken off air in March after comments he made about then Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s attempts to stop small boats crossing the English Channel. On X, he wrote: “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people, in language not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s and I’m out of order?2

The comments caused a huge uproar among politicians and political commentators leading to Beeb bosses suspending the presenter. It was followed by a mass walk out of Match of the Day pundits and potential hosts.

It led to the BBC showing a 20 minute highlight show on March 11. The BBC however was forced to back down, and a week later Lineker was reinstated on the show.

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The broadcaster had however drawn up a new social media strategy for its freelance presenters. Lineker said the new impartiality rules – which said presenters cannot attack a political party while their programme airs – were “all very sensible”.

Now, speaking to GQ, Lineker has reflected on the backlash and the aftermath of the controversial comment. The magazine asked, knowing the consequences, would he send the message again.

Lineker said: “I wouldn’t, purely because it was pitched as me versus the BBC, and I’m part of the team at the BBC.

“And I love the BBC. For all its difficulties and problems, it’s an incredible institution. It’s something we should be massively proud of, and sometimes we rubbish it.”

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The new BBC guidance, which was unveiled in September, said workers in news and current affairs should be subject to stricter regulations. However, it also had rules for flagship hosts.

As well as no longer being allowed to criticise political parties while presenting, they were barred from criticising the character of individual politicians in the UK. They are also banned from commenting on political debate during an election period, or takingup an official role for a campaigning group.

The flagships TV shows are Antiques Roadshow, Dragons’ Den, The One Show, major sporting events, Masterchef, Top Gear, Strictly Come Dancing. While Radio 1’s Breakfast show with Greg James, plus Radio 2’s Breakfast with Zoe Ball, the mid-morning show with Vernon Kay and the afternoon slot with Scott Mills also have to adhere to the rules.

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