The BBC “undermined its own credibility” in the Gary Lineker series.

Saturday’s Match Of The Day will take place without a presenter, pundits and several regular commentators after Lineker was told to step down from presenting the BBC show.

Greg Dyke, director-general of the BBC between 2000 and 2004 and a former FA chairman, said the broadcaster was “mistaken” in slamming Lineker.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the company’s precedent is that “news and current affairs staff are expected to be impartial and not the rest of them”.

“When you start applying the rules for news and current affairs to everyone who works for the BBC, where does it stop?” he said.

He added: “There is long-established precedent at the BBC, which is that if you’re an entertainment presenter or a football presenter, you’re not bound by the same (impartiality) rules.

“The real problem today is that the BBC has undermined its own credibility by doing so because it seems – the perception out there – is that the BBC has bowed to government pressure.

“And once the BBC does that, you’re in real trouble.

“The perception out there will be that Gary Lineker, a very popular TV presenter, has been taken off the air following government pressure on a particular issue.”

Former England footballers and Match Of The Day regulars including Alan Shearer and Ian Wright announced on Friday they were boycotting the show in solidarity with Lineker.

Several of the show’s commentators also said they would be stepping down from Saturday’s broadcast.

The BBC said the show will “focus on match action with no studio presentation or expert knowledge” and said it understood the position of its presenters.

Lineker, 62, got caught up in a dispute over impartiality after he compared on Twitter the language used to introduce a new government asylum-seekers policy to 1930s Germany.

The channel said it “decided” that Lineker would take a break from presenting the highlight program until an “consensual and clear position” on its use of social media was reached.

BBC Director-General Tim Davie, who warned staff against using social media when he took office in late 2020 before updating guidelines on their use, was asked by BBC News why Lineker had not been sacked.

Davie replied: “Well I think we always try to take reasonable action and we did.”

He said he would not be “amending” the company’s current statement on the matter but that there had been “very constructive discussions”.

In response to Shearer and Wright’s boycott, the BBC boss added: “I absolutely respect people’s right to make that decision and BBC Sport must look to the program they are going to produce for the weekend as usual. ”

The Daily Express reported that a group of 36 Conservative MPs and colleagues signed a letter to Davie demanding a full and independent investigation into Lineker’s comments and a full “unreserved” apology from the moderator.

Ahead of the BBC announcement, former Manchester City defender Micah Richards and former Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas, both of whom were not due to appear in this weekend’s Match Of The Day, also supported their fellow pundits.

Football Focus host Alex Scott said on Saturday morning, just hours before the midday show was due to air, that “it doesn’t feel right to continue the show today”.

She wrote on Twitter: “I made a decision last night that even though I love doing Football Focus and we’re having an incredible week winning an SJA award, it just doesn’t feel right to continue with the show today had. Hopefully I’ll be back in the chair next week…”

Jason Mohammad announced he would not be presenting Final Score on Saturday, tweeting: “As you know, Final Score is a TV show that is very close to my heart. However – I informed the BBC this morning that I will not be presenting the show on BBC One this afternoon.”

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) will give their full support to any player who chooses not to fulfill media duties with the BBC after Premier League games, in solidarity with Lineker and the other experts.

A number of players approached the PFA for advice and the union subsequently spoke to all Premier League clubs to establish a common position.

The PFA tweeted on Saturday: “We have been informed that players involved in tonight’s games will not be asked to attend interviews with Match Of The Day.

“The PFA spoke to members who wanted to take a common position and show their support for those who chose not to be part of today’s programme.

“During these discussions we made it clear that as their union we would support any members who may face consequences for choosing not to meet their broadcasting obligations. This is a sensible decision that will ensure players are not put in this position now.”

Nottingham Forest, who are visiting Tottenham on Saturday afternoon, said in a statement: “We support our players and managers in every personal decision they make in relation to their BBC post-match interviews at tonight’s game.”

An online petition organized by the Daily Mirror on Friday calling for Lineker’s reinstatement garnered 100,000 signatures in less than 10 hours.

Philippa Childs, head of Bectu, which represents thousands of BBC workers, said the Lineker decision was “deeply concerning” and “will appear to have bowed to political pressure from ministers”.

The row was first sparked by Lineker’s response on Twitter to a Home Office video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman revealed the government’s plans to bar migrants from crossing the Channel on small boats.

The former England striker wrote: “There isn’t a huge influx. We take in far fewer refugees than other large European countries.

“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy aimed at the weakest, in language not unlike that of Germany in the 1930s.” The BBC “undermined its own credibility” in the Gary Lineker series.

Russell Falcon

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