Ex BBC executive urges BBC boss to get a 'grip' of Gary Lineker row

Ex BBC executive says Gary Lineker has ‘outgrown the job and the role’ and urged director general Tim Davie to fly back from US to ‘get a grip’ of the fiasco

  • Peter Salmon warned Lineker might have ‘outgrown’ his role on the channel
  • Today’s programming will be severely disrupted for the second day running 
  • Read more: MOTD figures increase by half a million despite reduced format

A former BBC Executive has suggested football pundit Gary Lineker may have ‘outgrown’ his role at the corporation and that Director General Tim Davie needs to return home to get a ‘grip’ on the crisis, as scheduling is disrupted for a second day running.

Peter Salmon, who was previously controller of BBC One and director of sport, described the programming chaos as a ‘mess’ after BBC staff walked out from football programmes in solidarity with Lineker.

Lineker was forced to step back from presenting Match of the Day (MOTD) in a row over impartiality rules after he likened the government’s language on people arriving in the UK on small boats to that used in 1930s Nazi Germany.

Mr Salmon, who is married to Happy Valley star Sarah Lancashire, was one of multiple ex-BBC staff to criticise the handling of the row by Mr Davie, who is currently in Washington DC.

It follows a day of hastily re-organised programming on Saturday which saw MOTD run for just 20 minutes with no commentary and shows such as Football Focus cancelled entirely. 

Lineker was forced to step back from presenting Match of the Day (MOTD) in a row over impartiality rules

Peter Salmon, who is married to Happy Valley star Sarah Lancashire, was one of multiple ex-BBC staff to criticise the handling of the row

Match Of The Day aired on Saturday without accompanying analysis from pundits under a different name and without a theme tune, following a boycott in ‘solidarity’ with former England player Lineker.

Sunday’s Match Of The Day 2 is also expected run with a reduced format while planned coverage of the Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Manchester United will air without pre-match presentation.

Uncertainty over Match Of The Day 2 grew yesterday after main presenter Mark Chapman was absent from his BBC radio duties and Jermain Defoe announced he had pulled out of appearing as a pundit on the highlights show.

For a second day, Radio 5 Live also replaced its usual live sports coverage with pre-recorded content, such as the podcast Sport’s Strangest Crimes.

Former BBC executive Mr Salmon told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg the situation was ‘complex’ and Lineker is a ‘major figure’.

He said: ‘Twenty-five years in Match Of The Day – he’s more than just a TV presenter, he’s a national figure.

‘He’s got views, he’s got passions, he’s been involved in looking after Ukrainian refugees. It may be that Gary’s outgrown the job and the role in the BBC.

‘Twenty-five years in, before that Des Lynam, Gary took over, he’s been brilliant. Sometimes there’s a point at which you cross the line.’

Reflecting on the disruption to the BBC’s sports schedule, he added: ‘It’s a mess, isn’t it?

‘They must be wishing they could reel back 72 hours and start all over again. It’s Oscars day but there’s no awards for how this has been managed.’

Mr Salmon continued: ‘I think they’ve got to take action pretty quickly. It doesn’t help the chairman of the BBC himself is slacked to one side in this process and there’s a bit of an issue.

‘Tim Davie is isolated in some ways, he needs to come home and grip this now. We need him back running the ship.’

It is the latest controversy to hit the corporation after its chairman, Richard Sharp, became embroiled in a cronyism row over him helping Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility. 

Former BBC director-general Mark Thompson said he ‘absolutely hopes’ and ‘believes’ Mr Davie will survive the impartiality row surrounding Gary Lineker.

Asked by Kuenssberg whether he thought Lineker would be back on air by Sunday night, he replied: ‘I hope so.’

Mr Davie has apologised for the disruption but said he will not resign.

The BBC also faces a strike on Wednesday where up to 1,000 journalists are expected to walk out on the same day Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to deliver his Spring Budget.

On Sunday, Mr Hunt rowed back from demanding an apology for Lineker’s comments.

Rallies in support of Gary Lineker have been held outside the BBC’s studios and multiple members of staff have refused to appear on major shows until he is back on air

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt told Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday rowed back from demanding an apology from Lineker, instead saying it was an issue for the BBC to resolve

The BBC’s Director General, Tim Davie, has apologised for the disruption to programming but says he will not resign over the fiasco

Asked if he still thought the TV pundit should apologise, he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘I don’t agree with his comments and I personally think that he was wrong to say what he said, but I don’t think it’s for me to decide how that issue is resolved.

‘If you believe in BBC independence, then it’s not for the chancellor or any other government minister to say how these issues are resolved.’

Asked whether the corporation’s leadership is too close to the party of Government, Mr Hunt said it was not for him ‘to make those judgments’.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves criticised Tory MPs for ‘putting pressure’ on the BBC to take Lineker off 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 taken off TV from doing commentary on the football? No, I don’t. And I think that was out of proportion.’

She said Tory MPs had nothing to say when Mr Sharp was found to have helped facilitate a loan for Johnson.

Ex-England football star John Barnes told the programme the BBC wants to ‘pick and choose’ when its presenters can be impartial.

And former BBC executive and presenter, Roger Bolton, told GB News that Mr Sharp ‘now needs to resign’.

He added: ‘The very fact that he can’t speak out on the subject and defend the BBC and define impartiality, as the chairman of the BBC, means he can’t do his job. So I’m afraid he should go.’

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