A number of BBC football programmes on radio and TV have been taken off air after presenters, pundits and commentators refused to appear following Gary Lineker’s suspension.
Final Score and Football Focus were pulled from BBC One on Saturday after their respective hosts, Jason Mohammad and Alex Scott, said they would not be hosting their shows.
Former England player Scott tweeted: “I made a decision last night that even though I love doing football focus and we have had an incredible week winning an SJA award that it just doesn’t feel right going ahead with the show today. Hopefully I will be back in the chair next week…”
Gary Lineker did not answer questions from reporters when he left his home in Barnes, west London, this morning, as he headed to watch former team Leicester take on Chelsea in the King Power stadium.
Jason Mohammad also said he wouldn’t be on the BBC’s results programme on Saturday afternoon.
“As you know, Final Score is a TV show very close to my heart,” he tweeted.
“However – I have this morning informed the BBC that I will not be presenting the show this afternoon on BBC One.”
Radio host Mark Chapman has withdrawn from hosting BBC Radio 5 Live Sport this afternoon, Sky News understands, with the show also being taken off air.
His colleague Dion Dublin said he would also not be appearing on the station, while Jermain Defoe said he will not be in the studio for Match of the Day 2 on Sunday.
However, BBC Radio 5 Live will offer commentary of Leeds v Brighton on Saturday afternoon with Ian Dennis, as well as coverage of the Six Nations.
A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC will only be able to bring limited sport programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that.
“We are sorry for these changes which we recognise will be disappointing for BBC sport fans.
“We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.”
Match of the Day will go ahead tonight – but without a presenter, pundits or BBC commentators after Lineker was removed from the programme over his tweets criticising the government’s migrants policy.
The BBC has said there will be no “studio presentation or punditry” on Saturday night’s edition, which will instead focus on “match action”.
Which BBC presenters, pundits or commentators have pulled out of shows today?
Alex Scott – hosts Football Focus and other BBC football coverage
Jason Mohammad – has presented Final Score since 2013
Alan Shearer – former England footballer who has presented at the BBC on-and-off since 2006
Ian Wright – another former England star who has presented at the BBC regularly since 2017
Mark Chapman – the regular host of Match of the Day 2 on Sundays, as well as host of 5 Live Sports on Saturdays
Kelly Somers – covers matches for BBC football shows, and was seen as a contender to host Football Focus
Dion Dublin – Former Manchester United player and regular Football Focus pundit – alongside hosting duties for Homes Under The Hammer
Colin Murray – a BBC Radio 5 Live mainstay and hosts the Fighting Talk show on the station
Jermain Defoe – a regular pundit on Match of the Day 2
A former BBC director-general said earlier on Saturday that the BBC had “undermined its own credibility”.
Greg Dyke, also a former chairman of the FA, told Radio 4’s Today programme that the broadcaster was “mistaken” in standing Lineker down.
The row began on Tuesday when Lineker, 62, tweeted his thoughts on the government’s new policy to stem the flow of small boats crossing the Channel.
He compared the language used by the government to that used in 1930s Germany, when the Nazis came to power.
The BBC deemed the tweet had broken its editorial guidelines on impartiality and said Lineker had been removed from Match of the Day until an agreement can be reached on his social media use.
Govt pressure on the BBC may have softened – but Gary Lineker’s suspension isn’t surprising
The Gary Lineker row comes at a time when political impartiality at the BBC has been under closer focus than ever before.
Hostility from government may have mellowed since the days Boris Johnson and his Culture Secretary publicly spoke of the prospect of abolishing the licence fee.
But the concern in the Tory party and government about elements of the BBC’s output has not gone away.
The current Director General Tim Davie has made impartiality a core mission for his tenure in office.
Against this backdrop, the removal of Gary Lineker from the airwaves is perhaps no surprise.
The difficult question for the BBC is how much of this drive for balance is down to a genuine attempt to restore trust in the national broadcaster and how much is a result of blunt political pressure.
Labour has accused the BBC of buckling under the weight of a “cancel campaign” from Tory MPs and parts of the press.
The corporation is not helped on this front by the ongoing row about its Chairman Richard Sharp and his connections to Boris Johnson.
But there’s also the broader backdrop of the looming negotiations with the government around the charter renewal and the ongoing mid-term review that will look at issues connected to impartiality.
Ultimately a large part of this row is down to the longstanding contradictions in the BBC’s position as an independent broadcaster that depends on a royal charter negotiated with ministers for its very existence.
Those familiar tensions are now playing out in the modern world of social media where high-profile personalities feel more compelled to speak out on controversial political issues.
Squaring this circle will determine whether Gary Lineker stays at the BBC.
But it will also influence how the corporation operates in the years and decades to come.