According to figures, Saturday night’s episode of Match of the Day (MOTD) garnered 2.58 million viewers despite the absence of presenters or commentary. The abbreviated programme, called Premier League Highlights, was watched by 500,000 more people than last week’s show and lasted only 20 minutes. The row regarding Gary Lineker’s criticism of the government’s policies continues.
Gary Lineker was forced to withdraw from presenting duties following a tweet in which he likened the language used by the government to describe people arriving in the UK on small boats to that used in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. As a result, his scheduled appearance on Saturday’s MOTD was cancelled, triggering a series of presenters and pundits who refused to appear on BBC’s football programming. BBC staff members also walked out in a show of solidarity with the presenter.
Saturday’s show lacked the typical two-hour format and included no commentary, punditry, theme tune, or branding. Instead, fans watched short highlight clips of the day’s matches, which were criticized as being a poor substitute for the regular programming. Social media users complained about the show’s lack of content.
Following Lineker’s withdrawal from the programme, fellow pundits Alan Shearer and Ian Wright also refused to appear. The disruptions continued when Football Focus and Final Score had to be hastily replaced with episodes of Bargain Hunt and The Repair Shop after hosts Alex Scott, Kelly Somers, and Jason Mohammad all refused to appear. Radio programming was also affected, with much of 5Live’s schedule being changed at the last minute.
The BBC has strict impartiality guidelines for its presenters and staff, including those for social media. Director General of the BBC Tim Davie has apologised for the disruptions but has not resigned, and is reportedly cracking down on the impartiality code.