The suspension of sports presenter Gary Lineker has become a real crisis for the BBC. But not only the public broadcaster is under criticism, the debate over Lineker's statement on the government's rhetoric in asylum policy has affected the entire British society. The significance of the Lineker crisis can be seen in the extensive media coverage - it takes place partly with live tickers.

Michael Hanfeld

responsible editor for Feuilleton Online and "Medien".

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Lineker had written on Twitter that the government's choice of words reminds him of the rhetoric from Nazi Germany in the thirties. The policy pursued by Interior Minister Suella Braverman is "more than terrible," Lineker wrote. Braverman had presented the plan to prevent refugees from crossing the English Channel with small boats. There was talk of the danger of an "invasion".

For his criticism, the former national team striker Lineker received broad approval. From the ranks of the British government and the Tories, however, he was, as expected, fiercely contradicted. The demand to dismiss Lineker as presenter of the popular football show "Match of the Day", bowed the BBC boss Tim Davie immediately. Reason: Lineker had violated the station's duty of neutrality.

On Saturday, however, the football show took place not only without Gary Lineker, but also without experts and without interviews with players and coaches. "Twenty minutes of shameful, joyless television" had been, wrote the "Guardian". Normally, the broadcast lasts an hour and a half. The shame is shared by many - even in the football stadiums where fans expressed their solidarity with Lineker on Saturday.

BBC boss: Lineker to go back on air

Gary Lineker has hosted "Match of the Day" for twenty years. In Great Britain he is an icon of his sport, with hardly anyone to compare. Without him, former footballers Ian Wright and Alan Shearer did not want to perform for the BBC. So "Match of the Day" took place in the aforementioned shrinking form. Because other BBC employees showed solidarity, many also rejected other programs. Without Lineker, it is quite obvious, the BBC stands blank.

The station's general director, Tim Davie, has also recognized this. He wanted Gary Lineker back on air, said Davie. "Gary is an excellent TV journalist. For me, success means Gary goes back on the air," Davie said in an interview with his own station. However, he did not explain how the dispute should be resolved. They wanted to clarify the situation in peace, said Davie. However, there is no trace of peace.

The "right balance between freedom of the press and neutrality"

Davie apologised for the limited football coverage. "It was a difficult day, and I am sorry that the audience was affected and did not receive his program. As a true sports fan, I know this is a bitter blow and I'm sorry," said Davie.

Lineker's suspension, however, Davie considers appropriate. It is a matter of finding the right balance between freedom of the press and neutrality. It is not about political directions, said the former conservative politician. He ruled out his own resignation, which is already being demanded.

Lineker sits in the stands at Leicester

However, Gary Lineker did not miss his appearance on match day. With his son George he sat in the stands of his hometown club Leicester City and saw to his regret the defeat against FC Chelsea (1:3). In a dark suit, the 62-year-old appeared like a classic anchorman.

"I'm not a local, but I don't see a reason why someone should be suspended for this statement," said Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool FC coach, and was as subtle as the debate otherwise does not have: "I'm not sure if I have a language problem, but I can't find a reason for it."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, on the other hand, has a problem. He wants to stick to his asylum plans and stay out of the dispute over Lineker - which is hardly possible. Lineker and the BBC should resolve their dispute among themselves, Sunak said. It is not only Labour Party politicians who doubt that this will succeed.