Prime Minister Rishi Sunak weighs in on Gary Lineker row
Tonight's Match of the Day show is set to look very different from normal, following a day of BBC programming disruption, ITV News' Vincent McAviney reports
As football pundits throw their support behind Gary Lineker and in-turn throw the BBC sporting schedule into chaos, the prime minister has weighed in on the ongoing controversy.
Rishi Sunak has said the BBC’s decision to take Gary Lineker off air is “a matter for them, not the Government”, as he acknowledged that “not everyone will always agree” with his asylum policy.
The row between the broadcaster and its highest paid presenter was sparked after Lineker criticised the Government's plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.
In response to a Home Office video posted on Twitter, in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the new scheme, 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.”
Braverman has denied the use of 'Nazi -like' rhetoric.
Since then the BBC has removed Lineker as the Match Of The Day presenter, leading to a mass boycott of presenters and pundits who work for the network's sports programmes.
In response to the controversy, Rishi Sunak said in a statement: “As Prime Minister, I have to do what I believe is right, respecting that not everyone will always agree.
"That is why I have been unequivocal in my approach to stopping the boats.
“Gary Lineker was a great footballer and is a talented presenter.
"I hope that the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in a timely manner, but it is rightly a matter for them, not the Government.
“While that process is ongoing, it is important that we maintain perspective, particularly given the seriousness of the issue at hand.
"Forty-five thousand people crossed the channel illegally last year, many of whom have been exploited or trafficked by criminal gangs, putting their lives in danger.
“We need to break this cycle of misery once and for all and the policy we set out this week I believe aims to do just that.
"It is not only the fair and moral thing to do, it is also the compassionate thing to do.
“There are no easy answers to solving this problem, but I believe leadership is about taking the tough decisions to fix problems.
"I know not everyone will always agree, but I do believe this is fair and right.”
Tonight’s Match Of The Day has been slashed by over an hour to just 20 minutes. The show is set to go ahead without a presenter, pundits and several regular commentators, including the BBC’s sport editor Dan Roan.
Stars pulled out of today's Football Focus and Final Score, appearing to provoke a last minute scheduling scramble at the broadcaster throughout its Saturday programming.
Former England footballers and MOTD regulars, including Alan Shearer and Ian Wright, had kicked off the boycotts, announcing on Friday they would not be appearing on the show, in solidarity with Lineker.
This afternoon, the chaos has trickled down to regional level with BBC Radio Wales and BBC Scotland having to limit their sports programming.
Gary Lineker did not answer questions from reporters as he left his home on Saturday morning
Gary Lineker spent Saturday afternoon watching his boy-hood club Leicester City take on Chelsea at the King Power Stadium.
He was seen taking selfies with fans in the stands as many held up posters saying "I stand with Gary" and "stand up to racism".
Lineker did not answer questions from reporters when he left his home in Barnes, south-west London, on Saturday morning, before being quickly escorted into a chauffeured BMW to travel to the match.
Earlier this week reporters outside his home asked if he regretted his tweet, to which he responding “no” and when asked if he stood by it he said “course”.
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