Sunak calls on BBC to resolve row over Gary Lineker suspension

Rishi Sunak has sought to distance the government from the row consuming the BBC over its suspension of football presenter Gary Lineker for what it said was a breach of its political impartiality policy.

The prime minister called on the broadcaster to resolve the dispute quickly, increasing pressure on Tim Davie, its director general, who apologized to viewers for the upheaval and said he was trying to get Lineker back on air.

“Gary Lineker was a great footballer and is a talented presenter,” Sunak said in a statement issued at

“I hope the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in due course, but that is rightly a matter for them, not the government.”

Sunak’s statement came after a day of chaos at the BBC, which severely disrupted its sports programmes, including the flagship Today’s match TV show as Lineker’s colleagues came out to support the veteran presenter and former England player.

On Friday, the BBC had asked Lineker to “step down”. Today’s match while it hammered out an agreement with him regarding his future activity on social media. The row was sparked when Lineker compared the government’s language on migration to that heard in Germany in the 1930s in comments on Twitter.

Davie told BBC News on Saturday that “success for me is getting Gary back on the air”, adding that he was prepared to review impartiality rules for freelancers like Lineker. The director-general said he would “absolutely not” resign, but admitted “it has been a difficult time for the BBC”.

He said there had been no “pandering” to any political party amid accusations from Labor that BBC bosses were bowing to pressure from Downing Street and ministers over Lineker’s remarks.

Davie admitted it had been a “difficult day” for the company but said “we are working very hard to resolve the situation”.

Labor claimed Sunak was trying to shirk responsibility for fueling the row.

In recent days, Suella Braverman, the home secretary, and Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, have both criticized Lineker, while Tory MPs and right-wing newspapers, notably the Daily Mail, called for his suspension.

Lucy Powell, shadow culture secretary, said: “It’s just depressing that the BBC caved in to this Tory bullying, but the prime minister’s crocodile tears, now he can see that the Tories have got this one so wrong to fool nobody.”

The dispute erupted as Davie tries to strengthen the company’s impartiality, which he said was his main ambition when he took over in September 2020. But the company’s leadership is facing increasing pressure over its perceived pro-government bias.

As a sports presenter, Lineker is already given more leeway than BBC journalists to express his opinions in public. Some critics of the company have suggested that the rules should be loosened further.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: