BBC talks with Lineker 'moving in the right direction' as Match of the Day 2 airs with no host

The fallout from the BBC's decision to take Gary Lineker off Match of the Day spills into another day, ITV News' Sejal Karia reports

Talks between the BBC and Gary Lineker are “moving in the right direction” according to reports.

The broadcaster reported added that there “are hopes of a resolution soon, but not all issues are ‘fully resolved’ at this stage”.

Match Of The Day 2 followed a similar stripped-back version to Saturday’s edition by airing only short clips from earlier football matches with no accompanying commentary.

The BBC One show was originally scheduled to last an hour and 15 minutes, but it was reduced to 15 minutes and the classic theme song did not play at the beginning.

A continuity announcer introduced the programme, saying: “Now on BBC One, sorry we’re not able to show our normal Match Of The Day 2 including commentary tonight, but here’s the best action from today’s Premier League matches.”

The broadcaster is also expected to televise a Women's Super League clash without a pre-match presentation.

Gary Lineker spent his Saturday afternoon supporting Leicester City as they played Chelsea Credit: Mike Egerton/PA

It comes as new figures show the extraordinary Saturday night limited Match Of The Day (MOTD) was watched by 2.6 million viewers, according to BBC News.

The football highlights programme, broadcast in an extraordinary format while the BBC was under immense pressure, was viewed by nearly half a million more than last Saturday’s show, which had an audience of 2.1 million, according to BARB overnight figures.

The show was radically different as it aired for only 20 minutes and did not include accompanying commentary or analysis from pundits or even its famous theme tune – instead broadcasting only short highlight clips of the day’s matches.

Uncertainty over MOTD2 grew yesterday after main presenter Mark Chapman was absent from his BBC radio duties and Jermain Defoe announced he had pulled out of appearing as a pundit on the highlights show.The BBC was forced to apologise over scheduling turmoil on Saturday, as its decision to pull Lineker off-air triggered a wave of sports programming boycotts by many of its biggest stars.

The broadcaster is mired in an impartiality row over Lineker's Twitter criticism of the government's migrant policy.

But some of its biggest stars and sports figures rallied around the MOTD figurehead, after he declined to back down over his tweet comparing the language used by the government to launch its asylum-seeker policy to 1930s Germany.

Programmes including Football Focus and Final Score were removed from the schedule, and 5 Live’s radio coverage was radically altered throughout the day, following staff boycotts in solidarity with the former England star.

Lineker kept his silence throughout the day, as he headed out to attend a Leicester City-Chelsea clash - while the BBC was left to air MOTD without presenters, pundits, or players, who showed their support for the former England star by refusing to do interviews.

The broadcaster’s full suite of Sunday sports programming remains up in the air, followed the string of boycotts triggered by show regulars Ian Wright and Alan Shearer.

The former England striker tweeted on Saturday: “It’s always such a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I have taken the decision to stand down from my punditry duties. @GaryLineker.”

Further doubt was cast as sports broadcaster Mark Chapman, who is due to host Match Of The Day 2, did not present for BBC Radio 5 Live Sport on Saturday.

Before match commentary from its two scheduled Premier League games this afternoon started on Radio 5 Live, commentator Alistair Bruce-Ball said: “I want to reiterate what we said ahead of our football coverage yesterday.

“I know you’ll all appreciate this is a difficult time for BBC Sport and for all those who work in the department, and we hope it all gets resolved as soon as possible.

“It’s been a very difficult decision to make personally, I can assure you it’s not been taken lightly, but I’m a BBC staff member, I’m a radio commentator for this station and, just like yesterday, we are here to provide our football service to you, our audience.”

The Women’s Football Show is also scheduled to air from 11.45pm for more than 40 minutes, but it could also be affected by the BBC only airing “limited sport programming” this weekend.

Meanwhile, Lineker's eldest son says he thinks the sports presenter will return to MOTD – but that he would not “back down on his word”, according to reports.

George Lineker claimed his father had been “a bit disappointed” by the BBC asking him to step back from hosting Saturday’s Match Of The Day (MOTD), after he compared the language used to launch a new government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany in a tweet.

However, in an interview with the Sunday Mirror, he said Lineker had been “overwhelmed by the support” of fellow pundits who had withdrawn from various BBC sports shows in solidarity with him, particularly his MOTD co-presenters Ian Wright and Alan Shearer.

Gary and his son George Lineker at the GQ Men of the Year Awards. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

George Lineker told The Sunday Mirror: “Dad is a good man, a good human, and I’m proud of him for standing by his word. That’s why he was pulled off the show – because he wouldn’t apologise. But he will always speak up for people who don’t have a voice.

“He is passionate about helping refugee charities – he took in two refugees who he is still in touch with and trying to help.

“It means a lot to him to stand up for people whose only hope is to escape a country with only the clothes on their back. That’s why he’s been so firm.

“Will he go back to Match of the Day? I think so – he loves Match of the Day. But he won’t ever back down on his word.”

The BBC director-general apologised for the scheduling disruption caused to the broadcaster’s sports programming, but confirmed he will not resign over the Lineker impartiality row.

Tim Davie told BBC News in Washington DC on Saturday: “I’m very sorry for the disruption today. It’s been a difficult day and I’m sorry that audiences have been affected and they haven’t got the programming.

“As a keen sports fan, I know like everyone that to miss programming is a real blow and I am sorry about that.

“We are working very hard to resolve the situation and make sure that we get output back on air.”

BBC director-general Tim Davie talks to BBC News in the US. Credit: BBC

The director-general said that he would not go into too much detail about the discussions being had, but that “everyone wants to calmly resolve the situation”.

“I would say Gary Lineker is a superb broadcaster. He’s the best in the business, that’s not for debate,” he added.

“To be clear, success for me is: Gary gets back on air and together we are giving to the audiences that world-class sports coverage which, as I say, I’m sorry we haven’t been able to deliver today.”

Mr Davie also said that he does not feel this is about “left or right” politics, but about the corporation’s ability to balance free speech and impartiality, adding: “We’re fierce champions of democratic debate, free speech, but with that comes the need to create an impartial organisation.”

Asked if he would resign as “there are many people in the UK that simply do not trust you,” Mr Davie said: “Absolutely not.

“I think my job is to serve licence fee payers and deliver a BBC that is really focused on world-class, impartial landmark output – and I look forward to resolving this situation and looking forward to delivering that.”

A snap YouGov poll has found 53% of the British public think the BBC was wrong to suspend Lineker from MOTD following his comments on the government’s asylum policy.

The data found also that 27% thought the broadcaster was right to suspend him – while 20% did not know.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement that the row surrounding Lineker and the BBC is “a matter for them, not the government”, as he acknowledged “not everyone will always agree” with his new asylum policy.

Mr Davie was also asked by BBC’s Nomia Iqbal about BBC chairman Richard Sharp, who has faced growing calls to resign his position over the cronyism row caused by him helping Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility.

Reflecting on why Mr Sharp still had a job, he said: “In terms of the chairman, I have a lot of responsibilities in this job for thousands of people, one thing I don’t do is the appointment as the chair.

“The way in which the board is hired and that role is a different thing to editorially me running the BBC, making those decisions, trying to be fair, and getting a BBC that is truly impartial.”

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