BBC and Gary Lineker reach agreement to resolve impartiality dispute

Gary Lineker is reportedly set to return to the Match Of The Day next weekend amid speculation he and the BBC are close to settling their impartiality dispute.

There is reportedly “growing confidence” that the former England player will return as presenter of the popular BBC show after a weekend that saw the channel’s sports coverage suffer serious disruptions.

Lineker did not appear on the Football Highlights program after being told to step down from the role when he tweeted comparing the language used to introduce a new government asylum seeker policy to 1930s Germany.

The company is expected to announce it is reviewing its social media policies in the wake of the controversy and it is believed the sports broadcaster will agree to be more careful about what it tweets, the Telegraph said.

Football coverage on BBC TV and radio shows was marred over the weekend as other pundits, presenters and reporters – including Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and Alex Scott – went in “solidarity” with Lineker.

Match Of The Day aired on Saturday for just 20 minutes with no accompanying commentary or analysis from presenters, with the Sunday edition following a similar format and lasting just 15 minutes.

Coverage of the Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Manchester United was broadcast on Sunday without a pre-match presentation and Radio 5 Live replaced much of its usual weekend live sports coverage with recorded content.

Lineker has not commented publicly on the situation since he was taken off the air on Friday, and told reporters he “can’t say anything” when they questioned him about the future of his presenting career when he left his home in Barnes in the south west left London to walk his dog on Sunday morning.

The channel’s highest-paid presenter spent his Saturday afternoon supporting his hometown club Leicester City in their game against Chelsea.

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

BBC director general Tim Davie apologized for the disruption to sport’s schedule this weekend but said he would not be stepping down.

It is believed Mr Davie will be back at Broadcasting House on Monday, having reportedly been in Washington, DC on Saturday.

BBC Chairman Richard Sharp is also facing growing pressure to step down as the company’s impartiality policy has been questioned.

Mr Sharp, who was appointed leader in February 2021, has been embroiled in a cousin dispute for helping former Prime Minister Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility in recent months.

BBC Director General Tim Davie

BBC Director General Tim Davie (Hannah McKay/PA)

His appointment is currently under investigation, but he now faces renewed scrutiny, with both shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell questioning Mr Sharp’s position amid the Lineker dispute.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also called on the leader to step down, saying his position was “completely untenable”.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak declined to endorse Mr. Sharp’s character or integrity.

The two have known each other since Mr. Sharp was Mr. Sunak’s mentor at Goldman Sachs.

Asked if he was a man of integrity, Mr Sunak said: “Richard Sharp was appointed before my time by a government, before I became Prime Minister.

“This process will be reviewed again by someone who has been independently appointed. It is true that the process is ending its course. It would not be right of me to speculate beforehand.”

Asked if he endorsed Mr Sharp’s character, the Prime Minister said: “I’ve obviously known him for a long time. But as far as his appointment is concerned, it is right that it will be done independently and strictly. This process took place before I became Prime Minister, had nothing to do with me and was conducted as it should have been at the time.

“Now that this process is under review, the Independent Commissioner has appointed lead counsel to review this process. It is right that we continue like this.”

The BBC faces a strike on Wednesday, when up to 1,000 journalists are expected to leave on the same day Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to present his spring budget.

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