Why the Gary Lineker fiasco should spell full time for the BBC as we know it
In footballing terms – last week’s rather public confrontation between Gary Lineker and his BBC employers was a monumental own goal from the latter. It quite literally could not have gone any worse for the Beeb.
The publicly funded corporation, headed by director general Tim Davie, were robust in their attempts to silence Lineker after a string of tweets from the Match of the Day host in which he likened the government’s rhetoric regarding the Immigration Bill to 1930’s Germany.
A little strong? Perhaps. In the wrong? Not a chance in hell.
You can definitely draw parallels between the public’s response to Lineker’s subsequent removal from last weekend’s MOTD and a bottom of the table side being penned back in their own 18-yard box for long periods of a game.
It was fierce, it was relentless, and there was only one possible outcome.
But if the universal Twitter dragging of the BBC was expected, it’s safe to say that the immediate support from the former England captain’s colleagues would’ve caught them off-guard like some sort of rapid counter-attack. Honestly, it was spectacular to watch.
Long-time friend, co-host and all-round national treasure, Ian Wright was the first to voice his solidarity by withdrawing from the weekend’s showing. Alan Shearer quickly followed suit. Then Micah Richards, then Alex Scott, then Jermaine Jenas, then the entire commentary team.
Before we knew it – the timeline was left speculating whether Andrew Neil would be dusted off and forced to step in to offer his footballing critique.
Not quite the right-winger football fans had anticipated to see on their screens come Saturday evening that’s for sure.
Attack vs defence
Let’s circle back to the beginning of this saga for a second. As satisfying as this moral victory is for those that stand against the toxic right (and believe me it is), there are a few other issues to address.
How did we get here in the first place? You know, to the point where the response to a freelance employee voicing their opinion on their own personal platform was to try and censor them.
The irony that the BBC’s actions only strengthen Lineker’s initial claim is almost laughable in itself. Almost.
Once Lineker’s initial tweet began to gather pace, so did the backlash from a string of Tory MPs and figureheads. “Blah-blah-impartiality-blah-blah-unbiased-blah-blah-sack-him” or something along those lines.
The words ‘pot, kettle, black’ immediately sprung to mind as these pathetic attempts at diversion tactics seeped into the narrative.
The BBC’s record of upholding their supposed on-the-fence broadcasting is wispy at best. Shall we take the aforementioned Andrew Neil as an example? Lest we forget that the corporation’s former go-to political presenter also moonlighted as Chairman of the hard-right magazine the Spectator.
Their back-catalogue is quite something. From vocalising support for Greek neo-Nazis, to expressing regret at the LACK OF(!!!) Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
To say their political stance is aggressively right-winged is somehow still an understatement.
So why was there such a furore surrounding Gary Lineker’s government-bashing comments?
I think you know the answer already.
The final whistle
Moral victories and viral memes aside – there are some vital lessons we can learn from last weekend’s debacle.
Firstly, when it comes to the beautiful game in this country – do not fuck around. It will get ugly, and fast. Rightly or wrongly, the BBC taking a stand against Lineker galvanised the sort of rapid political backlash we rarely see in the UK these days.
Secondly – and most tellingly – solidarity is a weapon that still wields a shitload of power. Like seriously.
Much like 2021’s short lived European Super League circus, we’ve seen the strength in people coming together to put an end to whatever nonsense the establishment have tried to thrust upon us.
Gary Lineker might have been reinstated and Tim Davie forced into a weak excuse for an apology, but the government is pressing ahead with its abhorrent Immigration Bill. So if anything, the saga is far from over. In fact, it isn’t even half time…