The BBC announced Friday the withdrawal of its star presenter Gary Lineker, after a tweet from the former English footballer comparing the government's language on refugees to that of Germany in the 1930s.
After the announcement Tuesday by the Conservative government of a new bill to prevent migrants arriving by the Channel from seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, Gary Lineker, very active on Twitter, had denounced on this social network "a cruel policy for the most vulnerable, in a language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s".
An offensive tweet against the government
The words of the former striker of the England team, aged 62 and followed by nearly 9 million Internet users, have sparked a lively controversy in a tense context around immigration issues but also recurring criticism of impartiality targeting public broadcasting on the part of the British right.
The BBC said at the time that it would "talk" with the presenter of "Match Of The Day", a popular football programme broadcast every Saturday since 1964.
There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I'm out of order?
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 7, 2023
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On Friday, the audiovisual group said it considered "the recent activities (of Mr. Lineker) on social networks as a violation of the instructions". "The BBC has decided that he (Gary Lineker) will withdraw from the presentation of Match Of The Day until we have a clear agreement with him on his use of social media," it said.
In response, former England striker Ian Wright said he would not participate Saturday in the show, where he usually intervenes as an expert. "Everyone knows what Match Of The Day means to me, but I told the BBC I won't be there tomorrow," he said Friday, as well as Alan Shearer, another iconic figure on the show.
Solidarity of footballers
After the outcry over his tweet, Gary Lineker repeated that he stood by his words. On Thursday, he tweeted that he was "very eager" to host his show on Saturday. Gary Lineker, 48 goals in the English jersey until his retirement in 1994, presents since 1999 the program "Match Of The Day" on the BBC. Nicknamed "Mr Nice" for his irreproachable behavior throughout his career, he has since become a star presenter and expresses without restraint his political positions, especially against Brexit and pro-migrants.
The new bill, which the government says aims to stop the illegal arrival of migrants through the Channel, has been criticized by the UN and multiple human rights groups. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has accused London of wanting to "end the right of asylum".
- Prime minister