The BBC announced on Monday the return to the air of Gary Lineker, one of the group's most famous presenters, whose suspension on Friday after a tweet against the government had sparked a wave of protests. "Gary is an important part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to him, and I look forward to him presenting our programme next weekend," BBC Director-General Tim Davie said in a statement.
After a surreal few days, I'm delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming. 1/4
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 13, 2023
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Gary Lineker, 62, presenter of "Match of The Day", a popular football show, was fired after criticizing on Twitter a Conservative government bill to prevent migrants arriving through the Channel from seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, a project decried all the way to the UN. He denounced "a cruel policy aimed at the most vulnerable, in a language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s".
Solidarity and #BoycottBBC
These remarks were strongly criticized by the government and conservative newspapers. The audiovisual group, which has made impartiality a "priority", decided on Friday "that (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 networks".
But the suspension caused an uproar. It led to the upheaval of the BBC's sports programmes on television and radio. Several football show consultants, such as former celebrities Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, have decided to withdraw from their programmes out of "solidarity". The hashtag #BoycottBBC has become trending on Twitter.
New policy on the use of networks?
Tim Davie apologized and announced an investigation by an independent expert into the guidelines for the use of social networks, including how the rules apply to presenters not working on the news. For his part, Gary Lineker said he was "happy" that a solution had been found. "I support this investigation and look forward to returning to the air," he added.
On Twitter, where he is followed by nearly 9 million people, he thanked the people who supported him during "these surreal days". "I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost thirty years and I am extremely proud to work with the best and fairest media in the world," he added.
He allowed himself "one last thought": "As difficult as the last few days may have been, it is simply not comparable to having to flee one's home to escape persecution or war and seek refuge in a distant land."