The BBC has been urged to tackle the impartiality dispute over Gary Lineker as its sports coverage has been suspended for the second day in a row.
Match Of The Day aired for just 20 minutes on Saturday, with no accompanying commentary or analysis from experts following a “solidarity” boycott with former England player Lineker.
Sunday’s Match Of The Day 2 is also expected to be broadcast in a reduced format, while scheduled coverage of the Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Manchester United will be broadcast without a pre-match presentation.
Uncertainty over Match Of The Day 2 grew yesterday after lead presenter Mark Chapman was absent from his BBC radio duties and Jermain Defoe announced he had withdrawn from appearing as a pundit on the highlights show.
Former BBC manager Peter Salmon, who was previously BBC One’s controller and sporting director, said with Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday the situation was “complex” and Lineker was an “important figure”.
He added: “Twenty-five years in the Match Of The Day – he’s more than just a TV presenter, he’s a national figure.
“He has views, he has passions, he has taken care of Ukrainian refugees. Gary may have outgrown the job and role at the BBC.
“25 years ago, before Gary Des Lynam took over, he was brilliant. Sometimes there comes a point where you cross the line.”
Reflecting on the suspension of the BBC’s sports schedule, he added: “It’s a mess, isn’t it?
“You must be wishing you could rewind 72 hours and start over. It’s Oscars day but there are no awards for how this has been handled.
“I think they have to act pretty quickly. It doesn’t help that the BBC’s chairman himself is slacking off on a side in this process, and there’s a small problem.
“Tim Davie is sort of isolated, he needs to come home and get on top of this now. We need him back to lead the ship.”
Former BBC director-general Mark Thompson said he “absolutely hopes” and “believes” Mr Davie will survive the impartiality dispute over Gary Lineker.
When asked by Kuenssberg if he thought Lineker would be back on the air by Sunday night, he replied, “I hope so.”
The BBC’s decision on Friday to stop Lineker from presenting Match Of The Day after he tweeted comparing the language used to introduce a new government asylum-seekers policy to 1930s Germany has a growing number of their Causing sports presenters to boycott their shows.
Mr Davie has apologized for the disruption but said he will not be stepping down.
It’s the latest controversy to hit the company after its chairman Richard Sharp was embroiled in a cousin dispute for helping Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility.
The BBC is also facing a strike on Wednesday, with up to 1,000 journalists expected on the same day Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to present his spring budget.
On Sunday, Mr Hunt backtracked from demanding an apology for Lineker’s comments.
Asked if he still thought the TV pundit should apologize, he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I don’t agree with his comments and personally I think it was wrong to say that to say what he said, but I don’t think it’s up to me to decide how to resolve this issue.”
“If you believe in the independence of the BBC, then it is not for the Chancellor or any other minister to say how these issues will be resolved.”
Asked if the company’s leadership was too close to the ruling party, Mr Hunt said it was not up to him to “make those judgments”.
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has criticized Tory MPs for “putting pressure” on the BBC to take Lineker off the air.
She told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I wouldn’t have used the language that Gary Lineker used.
“But do I think he should be pulled from television to commentate on football? No, I do not. And I think that was disproportionate.”
She said Tory MPs had no say when it emerged Mr Sharp had helped Johnson get a loan.
Ex-England football star John Barnes told the show the BBC wants to “pick and choose” if its presenters can be impartial.
And former BBC manager and presenter Roger Bolton told GB News that Mr Sharp “must step down now”.
He added: “The fact that as Chairman of the BBC he cannot speak out on this issue and defend the BBC and define impartiality means he cannot do his job. So I’m afraid he should go.”
Saturday night’s limited Match Of The Day was watched by 2.6million viewers, according to overnight figures reported by BBC News – almost half a million more than last week’s show.
However, the program was radically different with a reduced running time and only short highlight clips of the day’s matches.