Match of the Day to air with no presenters or pundits after Gary Lineker told to ‘step back’ by BBC

The BBC has said that Match Of The Day will go ahead this weekend without a presenter or pundits, as Neil Connery reports

Former footballer Gary Lineker will "step back" from presenting BBC's Match of the Day (MOTD) after sparking controversy with a tweet accusing the home secretary of using Nazi-like language in her new immigration policy.

The presenter will "step back" from the programme until there is "an agreed and clear position on his use of social media", the BBC said in a statement on Friday.

Questions had began to swirl around who would present the show this coming Saturday, but the BBC have now said the show will go ahead "without studio presentation or punditry".

A BBC spokesperson said: "Some of our pundits have said that they don’t wish to appear on the programme while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary.

"We understand their position and we have decided that the programme will focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry."

In further developments, Match Of The Day commentator Steve Wilson said he and colleagues had also decided to step down from Saturday’s broadcast of the show.

“As commentators on MOTD, we have decided to step down from tomorrow night’s broadcast,” he wrote on Twitter.

“We are comforted that football fans who want to watch their teams should still be able to do so, as management can use World Feed commentary if they wish.”

He continued in another tweet: “However, in the circumstances, we do not feel it would be appropriate to take part in the programme.”

Wilson wrote earlier that it was "so sad" Lineker's impartiality row with the BBC had "become the story rather than the tragedy of human beings struggling to find sanctuary", adding: "Having taken in refugees himself, Gary has surely earned the right to express his opinion."

His first tweet was also shared by his fellow Match Of The Day commentators Conor McNamara, Robyn Rowen and Steven Wyeth.

Former BBC Newsnight host Emily Maitlis retweeted Wilson's comment and said "this is getting unmanageably big for the BBC now”.

It comes after a number of fellow MOTD pundits came out in support of Lineker earlier in the evening.

Pundit and former Arsenal striker Ian Wright said he will not be appearing on Saturday's programme in "solidarity" with Lineker.

It was a stance echoed by former Newcastle striker and presenter, Alan Shearer, who tweeted: "I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night."

Former Lionesses star and presenter Alex Scott was among the frontrunners tipped to take Lineker's place. However, she tweeted the words "FYI" [for your information] with a gif saying "nah, not me" - suggesting she would decline the offer.

It is not known whether Scott's tweet was referring to the MOTD fallout.

Fellow BBC presenter and former England footballer Jermaine Jenas ruled himself out of stepping in for Lineker, tweeting: "Been on air with the one show. I wasn’t down to be doing match of the day tomorrow, but if I was I would of said no and stood with my fellow pundits and."

Micah Richards, despite not being set to work on this Saturday's edition of MOTD, also said he would decline any request to take up presenting duties, saying: "I would find myself taking the same decision that Ian Wright and Alan Shearer have."

Former BBC sports presenter and Channel 5 News presenter Dan Walker claimed Lineker told him that the broadcaster "forced" him to pause presenting the show.

Reading a series of texts between himself and Lineker live on air, he said: "I have asked Gary Lineker the question about whether he is stepping back or whether the BBC have told him to step back and I’ve told him that if he responds to me that I will read out that text on air.

"He has said: ‘No, they’ve told me I have to step back’.

"So, Gary Lineker wants to continue to present Match Of The Day and is not apologising for what he’s said but he’s said it’s a BBC decision to force him to not present the programme at the moment."

The broadcaster said in a statement on Friday: "The BBC has been in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days. We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines.

"The BBC has decided that he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media.

Gary Lineker was asked by reporters if he regretted his tweet, responding 'no' and asked if he stood by it he said 'course'

"When it comes to leading our football and sports coverage, Gary is second to none.

"We have never said that Gary should be an opinion free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies."

The row was sparked by Lineker's response on Twitter to a Home Office video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.

What are the main points of the "stop the boats" plan?

  • There will be a duty placed on the home secretary to detain anyone who arrives in the UK illegally, except the seriously ill and children

  • It will no longer be possible for people who enter the UK illegally to claim asylum

  • Anyone who crosses the English Channel to enter Great Britain will be deported, either to a safe third country, Rwanda - with which the government has signed an asylum deal - or back to their home nation if it is not dangerous. Only those too ill to fly, people under 18 or migrants at serious risk of irreversible harm if they are deported will avoid relocation

  • Those who do enter illegally will be banned from ever returning

The ex-England striker wrote: "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."

He has since faced criticism from Downing Street, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Ms Braverman, who accused him of "diminishing the unspeakable tragedy" of the Holocaust.

However, support has come from the Labour party, with a source saying: "The BBC’s cowardly decision to take Gary Lineker off air is an assault on free speech in the face of political pressure.

"Tory politicians lobbying to get people sacked for disagreeing with government policies should be laughed at, not pandered to. The BBC should rethink their decision."

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper says 'this is being used by the government to find someone to blame and distract from serious failures on policies'

Yvette Cooper added: "This is a matter for Gary Lineker and the BBC, but my concern is that this is being used by the government to find someone to blame and distract from their own serious failures on policies and the fact that we have not seen a strong enough or big enough agreement with France, given the challenges we face."

Lineker had tweeted on Thursday to say that he was "very much looking forward" to presenting Match Of The Day on Saturday.

He previously told reporters outside his London home that he stood by his criticism of the immigration policy and did not fear suspension by the BBC.

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