Players and managers will not be required to speak to Match of the Day on Saturday following the BBC’s decision to suspend presenter Gary Lineker from showing Premier League highlights.
The BBC announced on Friday that Lineker would “step back” from his long-time role following a row over his use of social media.
The move stirred up turmoil in the company with critics, such as Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, and commentators later confirmed that they would not be part of the Saturday program as a sign of solidarity with their colleague.
The BBC later confirmed that the program would run without “studio presentation and cash” and would instead focus solely on match action.
It is now understood that the Premier League has spoken to the 12 clubs that will play on Saturday and informed them that players and managers will not be taking requests from today’s match for post-match interviews.
Liverpool travel to Bournemouth early on Saturday while champions Manchester City also play away at Crystal Palace.
Players and managers are required to perform certain post-match media duties with fines for any refusal to do so.
However, following the suggestions some might choose not to participate as a show of support for Lineker, they won’t be asked to speak now.
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the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) They welcomed what they saw as a “logical decision”.
“We have been informed that players participating in today’s matches will not be required to participate in interviews with today’s match,” they said in a statement.
The PFA has spoken to members who wanted to take a collective stand and be able to show their support to those who have chosen not to participate in Tonight’s programme.
“During those conversations we made it clear that we, as a union, will support all members who may face consequences for choosing not to complete their broadcasting obligations.
“This is a logical decision that ensures players are not put in that position now.”
Lineker, who first presented Match of the Day in 1999, criticized the UK government’s new asylum policy in a tweet on 7 March.
He wrote on Twitter: “No massive influx. We take in far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably harsh policy directed at the most vulnerable people with language not unlike that used by Germany in the 1930s, and am I off duty?”
Lineker’s tweet drew criticism from UK Home Secretary Soella Braverman and Culture Secretary Lucy Fraser among others, but it also saw support from prominent media figures such as Piers Morgan.
Lineker said on Thursday that he was scheduled to play today’s match as scheduled on Saturday.
“Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days,” Lineker wrote. “Glad that this ridiculously disproportionate story seems to be diminishing and very much looking forward to introducing @BBCMOTD on Saturday. Thanks again for all of your amazing support. It was overwhelming.”
But the situation escalated on Friday afternoon when the BBC issued a statement confirming Lineker’s exclusion.
A statement from the broadcaster read: “The BBC has engaged in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days. We have said we consider his recent activity on social media to be in breach of our guidelines.
“The BBC has decided that he will withdraw from presenting Match of the Day until we have an agreed and clear position on his use of social media.
“When it comes to leading our coverage of football and sports, Gary is second to none.
“We’ve never said that Gary should be a no-brainer, or that he can’t have a point on issues that matter to him, but we’ve said he should stay very far from taking sides on political issues or partisan political differences.”
Former BBC director general Greg Dyke, who led the company between 2000 and 2004, believes the decision to punish Lineker was the wrong one.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you start applying the rules of news and current affairs to everyone who works at the BBC, where do you end up?”
He added: “There is a well-established precedent at the BBC that if you are an entertainment presenter or a football presenter, you are not bound by the same (neutrality) rules.
“The real problem today is that the BBC has undermined its credibility by doing this because it seems – the prevailing perception – that the BBC has bowed to government pressure.
And once the BBC does that, you’re in real trouble.
“The perception is that Gary Lineker, the much-loved TV presenter, has gone off the air after government pressure over a particular issue.”
Other BBC programming on Saturday was thrown into turmoil with presenters Alex Scott and Kelly Somers confirming they would no longer be part of Football Focus and presenter Jason Muhammad doing the same with Final Score.
Both programs were subsequently replaced according to schedule.
Former players Dion Dublin and Leon Osman have confirmed they will not be appearing on BBC Radio 5Live on Saturday while Fighting Talk scheduled for 11am has yet to be broadcast.
The usual afternoon radio schedule was also replaced, including coverage of the Bournemouth-Liverpool match.
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(Photo: James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images)
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