BBC chief executive Tim Davie said he would not resign despite the storm unleashed by the suspension of presenter Gary Lineker, one of the strongest England strikers in history and now a TV commentator, who was sanctioned for a tweet criticising the government.
"Everyone wants to resolve the situation calmly and Gary Lineker is the best in his field, this is not discussed," Davie told the BBC and, when asked about his possible resignation, replied: "Absolutely not."
The Lineker case
Gary Lineker has always been committed to human rights. For example, he severely criticized the World Cup in Qatar and repeatedly called on gay football players to come out. Very sensitive to the issue of immigration, the TV presenter has hosted some refugees at his home in the past.
When the British government outlined plans last week to block illegal immigration, the former British striker, who has an external contract with the BBC worth one and a half million pounds a year, in a post on Twitter compared the words of Home Secretary Suella Braverman against migrant landings on British shores "to the language of Nazi Germany".
In response, the BBC, claiming the violation of internal rules on political impartiality, suspended him "until a clear and shared position is found on the use of social media by the presenter".
The measure led to the interruption of the sports program Match Of The Day, a real institution in the United Kingdom where it has been broadcast since 1964. The broadcast aired for the first time on Saturday without a presenter, consultant or even comment, reduced to 20 minutes on the highlights of six matches in the English Premier League.
The preview show of the weekend and that of the results of the final score were removed from the program and the coverage of Radio 5Live was interrupted, also because several football broadcast consultants, such as former England internationals Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, decided to resign from their programs in "solidarity" with Lineker.
Alex Scott and Jermaine Jenas, two potential replacements for Lineker, also refused to take his place. Indeed, Alex Scott, a former England women's defender, even refused to host her own programme, Football Focus, which was skipped. Same fate for another program on the Premier League, Final Results, for the step back of the host Jason Mohammad. Solidarity also extended to active footballers: many said they would not answer questions from the BBC.
Many criticisms of the provision on Lineker rained down from sportsmen and politicians who denounced an attack on freedom of expression. For the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, the BBC "always seems to give in to political pressure from the right". For Labour spokeswoman Yvette Cooper, the government is looking for "a scapegoat to hide its failures". And TV presenter Piers Morgan complained that "now in Britain you are liable to dismissal for expressing an opinion".
A sign displayed during the match Crystal Palace vs Manchester City
Prime Minister Sunak: "The issue does not concern us"
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he hoped the dispute between Lineker and the BBC would be resolved "in a timely manner", but added that it was not a matter for the government. Sunak described Lineker as a "great footballer and talented presenter", but in his first speech on the matter, he reiterated his support for the controversial measure aimed at permanently denying asylum applications to those trying to arrive in the UK across the Channel on small boats.
"As prime minister I have to do what I believe is right," he said, "respecting the fact that not everyone can agree. That's why I'm unequivocal in my approach to stopping boats." "There are 45,<> people who crossed the Channel illegally last year, most of them exploited and trafficked by criminal gangs who put their lives in danger," he added, adding that "we must end this cycle of suffering once and for all and the measure presented this week I believe points to this".