(CNN) The BBC’s weekend football coverage has been thrown into chaos following its announcement. gary lineker would “take a step back” from presenting, after becoming embroiled in an impartiality row when he criticized British government policy on Twitter.
The station is now facing a boycott by pundits, presenters and even players of its flagship soccer show “Match of the Day,” while other soccer shows, Football Focus and Final Score, and some radio shows have been forced off the air as a result of the rage.
Lineker criticized the government’s controversial new asylum-seeker policy on Tuesday and was subsequently relieved of his presentation duties this week since the BBC said his tweets breached its guidelines, specifically its commitment to “due impartiality”.
The BBC’s decision has generated controversy, leaving the organization under fire from opposition politicians, the Broadcasting Entertainment Communications and Theater Union, which represents BBC staff, and its former CEO Greg Dyke.
“The BBC will only be able to offer limited sports programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that,” a BBC spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday.
“We regret these changes which we recognize will be disappointing to BBC sports fans.
“We are working hard to resolve the situation and we hope to do so soon.”
In an interview with BBC News on Saturday, the station’s CEO Tim Davie was asked if he should resign over the crisis. He said he wouldn’t.
“Honestly, I don’t think, despite a lot of comments, that it’s left or right,” Davie said. The BBC is a “fierce champion of democratic debate, free speech, but with that comes the need to create an impartial organization,” he added.
Asked if he regretted the way he handled the situation, he said: “We made decisions, and I made decisions based on a real passion for what the BBC is and it’s difficult – it’s this balance between free speech and impartiality. “. .”
On Tuesday, Lineker tweeted “OMG this is beyond horrible” in a video posted to Twitter by Britain’s Home Office announcing the proposed new policy, a attempt to stop immigrant ships crossing the English Channel from France, which has been criticized by the United Nations and other world bodies.
He added: “There is not a huge influx. We accept far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy aimed at the most vulnerable people in language not unlike that used by Germany in the 1930s, and what I’m off duty?”
As Britain’s public broadcaster, the BBC is subject to “due impartiality”, a much-debated term that the organization define such as having “the power to be held accountable consistently” while not “allowing ourselves to be used to campaign for public policy change.”
On Friday, the BBC announced that Lineker would “stop hosting Match of the Day until we have a clear and agreed position on his use of social media”, adding that it considered his recent activity on social media to be in breach of its guidelines.
In response, first pundits, then commentators and then even Premier League teams announced their intention to boycott the show in support of Lineker.
BBC commentators Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen and Steven Wyeth said in a joint statement issued on Friday night that “under the circumstances, we do not believe it is appropriate to participate in the programme”.
Jermain Defoe, the former England striker, announced on Saturday that he would not appear as a commentator on Sunday’s programme.
“It is always a great privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I have made the decision to step down from my expert duties. @GaryLineker”, Defoe tweeted.
Defoe’s announcement appears to be the first sign that the British network’s Sunday television programming will also be affected.
For its part, the Association of Professional Soccer Players Announced on Saturday “players involved in today’s games will not be asked to participate in interviews with Match of the Day.”
“The PFA have been speaking with members who wanted to take a collective stand and be able to show their support for those who chose not to be a part of tonight’s show,” the statement added.
“During those conversations, we made it clear that, as your union, we would support all members who could face consequences for choosing not to complete their broadcast commitments. This is a common-sense decision that ensures that players are not now in that position”. “
Following his team’s 1-0 defeat against Bournemouth on Saturday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was asked about the BBC issue.
“I don’t see any reason why they would ask someone to back down for saying that. I’m not sure if it’s a language problem or not,” the German told reporters.
“If I understand it correctly, then this is an opinion on human rights and that should be possible to say.
“What I don’t understand is why everyone goes on Twitter and says something. I don’t understand the social media part, but probably (because) I’m too old for that.”
a political dispute
Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke said the broadcaster had “undermined its own credibility” by suspending Lineker because it appeared he had “caved in to government pressure”.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said the BBC had been wrong “on this and now they are very, very exposed.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “As a strong supporter of public service broadcasting, I want to be able to defend the BBC. But the decision to take Gary Lineker off the air is indefensible. It is undermining free speech in the face of political pressure, and it always seems to be pressure right-winger to whom he yields”.
Opposition Labor Party deputy leader Angela Rayner also criticized the BBC’s decision in a tweet on Saturday.
“The BBC’s cowardly decision to take Gary Lineker off the air is an assault on free speech in the face of political pressure from Tory politicians. They should rethink,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Nadine Dorries, an MP for the ruling Conservative party and former Culture Secretary, welcomed the BBC’s decision. tweeting: “The news that Gary Lineker has been removed from the investigation is welcome and shows that the BBC is serious about impartiality.
“Gary is entitled to his views – free speech is paramount. Many non-public service stations can accommodate him and his views and he would be better paid.”
For his part, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issued a statement on Saturday saying he hopes the situation between the BBC and his soccer star will be resolved, but it is not a UK government matter.