Status: 03/12/2023 11:09 am
Good “Match of the Day” is the name of Great Britain’s biggest football event. Hardly anyone would have thought that it could become a political issue about refugee policy and freedom of the press in a matter of hours. But that’s exactly what happened.
Britain’s BBC’s decision to ban star presenter and former national soccer player Gary Lineker from television over his criticism of the Conservative government’s asylum policy has sparked a storm of outrage and plunged the broadcaster into deep crisis.
Pundits, television staff and footballers rallied in solidarity with the 62-year-old, with the result that “Match of the Day”, Britain’s biggest football programme, had to do without a moderator and pundits on Saturday.
BBC director general Tim Davie announced on Sunday that Lineker would return to the air. “Gary is an excellent television journalist. For me, success means Gary is back on the air,” Davie said in an interview with the channel, according to the BBC. However, he did not explain how the dispute should be resolved. Everyone wanted to calmly resolve the situation, Davie said simply.
Wave of solidarity after the loss of the English presenter Gary Lineker
Sven Lohmann, ARD London, Daily Issues 11:15pm, March 11, 2023
Lineker accuses the government of Nazi rhetoric
It all started with a tweet by Lineker on Tuesday, in which he compared the Conservative government’s rhetoric on refugees to the Nazi rhetoric of the 1930s.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Interior Minister Suella Braverman had previously introduced a bill that would deny people who entered Germany irregularly the right to apply for asylum. In this context, Braverman had spoken of an “invasion” of boat people. The British government wants to first hold migrants entering the country without official permission in shelters and then expel them to Rwanda or other countries.
Criticism of the bill came not only from the opposition, but also from the UN refugee organization UNHCR, which has accused Britain of breaching international obligations.
Several Conservative MPs called for consequences for the former footballer, but Lineker refused to apologize. The BBC finally suspended its highest-paid presenter on Friday.
Wave of solidarity with Lineker
What the institution probably did not expect: His “Match of the Day” partners, former soccer players Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, announced that they would not be on the program either. Several colleagues from the BBC joined.
The PFA footballers’ union has backed Premier League players who refused to give interviews on the programme. Other radio and television sports programs also had to be cancelled. The BBC apologized to fans on Saturday for the limited coverage.
Lineker constantly shares political views
Lineker is a football icon like Jürgen Klinsmann or Rudi Völler in Germany and has been the face of “Match of the Day” for over 20 years. He has 8.8 million followers on Twitter and has repeatedly shared political views in the past that clashed with London’s Conservative government. Above all, the moderator, who works independently for the BBC, spoke out against Brexit and thus made powerful enemies among the Tories.
The BBC has been under pressure from Brexiteers and right-wing populists from the conservative Tory party for years. According to his account, the public broadcaster is infested with left-wing journalists who represent an urban elite. Actions like the one in the Lineker case seem like an anticipated obedience on the part of the BBC to avoid such criticism.
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