Former England football captain Gary Lineker returned to present on the BBC’s flagship football show on Saturday, a week after his suspension for criticizing the government’s immigration policy sparked a row over the channel’s impartiality rules.
BBC executives reversed their decision to suspend Lineker, the channel’s highest-paid presenter, after his colleagues last weekend refused to work in solidarity and forced him to broadcast football matches without normal commentary.
The controversy rocked the public broadcaster, which is funded by a levy on almost all UK households with televisions and has often faced accusations of bias from across the political spectrum.
“It was a really difficult situation for everyone involved,” said Lineker’s co-host Alan Shearer in a brief statement to viewers ahead of the start of the BBC broadcast of an FA Cup quarter-final match between Burnley and Manchester City.
“And through no fault of their own, some really great people were put in an impossible situation on TV and radio and it wasn’t fair, so it’s good to get back to some kind of normality and talk about football again.” ‘ said Scherer.
Lineker said, “I totally agree with those sentiments.”
Lineker, who has taken in refugees at his home, was suspended on March 10 for a tweet that called the government’s migration policy “immeasurably cruel” and the language used in its support with “that used by Germany in the 1930s”.
BBC news reporters and current affairs presenters are required to avoid politically partisan speech, although these guidelines generally do not apply to other staff or presenters on freelance contracts such as Lineker.
He refused to apologize for his tweet, and the opposition Labor Party accused the broadcaster of yielding to government pressure by suspending it. Following Lineker’s reinstatement, the BBC said it would review how its impartiality policies applied to freelance presenters’ use of social media.
Reducing illegal migration is one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s key policy goals for 2023.
More than 45,000 people – mostly young men from Albania, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq – crossed the Channel in small boats last year, preferring to seek asylum in Britain rather than other countries they had traveled through in Europe were.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has labeled these arrivals an “invasion” and sought to deport thousands of migrants to Rwanda.