By Ellie Ng, PA
Former England footballer Ian Wright has said on his podcast that he is “out” and “gone” if the BBC “get rid” of Gary Lineker from presenting its flagship soccer programme.
In an episode of Wrighty’s House, aired on Friday before Lineker was told to step back from presenting Match Of The Day (MOTD), Wright called the tweet row “the perfect distraction” for the British government.
Lineker (62) became embroiled in a row over impartiality after comparing the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany on Twitter.
The BBC said it had “decided” Lineker would take a break from presenting the highlights programme until an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media had been reached.
Former England footballers and MOTD regulars including Alan Shearer and Wright announced on Friday that they would be boycotting the show in solidarity with Lineker.
In the Friday episode of Wrighty’s House, the podcast’s host said: “I’ll tell you something. If they do – the BBC get rid of Gary Lineker – I’m out, I’m gone. I’m not staying there. On his own platform he should be able to say what he wants to say.”
Explaining the row, Wright said: “He wrote a tweet criticising the government about everything that’s happening, the human rights issues and everything here and it’s the perfect distraction for this government, man.
“Gary’s tweet was the headline news, bro.”
New episode on @ringerpodcasts!@IanWright0 is joined by @FloydTweet and @MayowaQuadri_:
– The Let Girls Play campaign
– Diacre dismissed by France
– Europa League thoughts
– Chelsea turning things around?
– and more!https://t.co/AaKXYKdIJd pic.twitter.com/KCm3Jat23U
— Wrighty’s House (@WrightysHouse) March 10, 2023
He went on: “They need Gary Lineker to distract everybody because for me it is a human issue, it’s not political.
“They’ve got no empathy. The most vulnerable ones are always the ones that suffer, they’re the ones that suffer and it starts with words.
“Gary Lineker, he retweeted from a German professor about – because the Hitler thing is what they all jumped on and everything like that. He retweeted saying that it all starts with language, it starts with words, they don’t just start throwing people into concentration camps, it starts with words and language.”
Wright said the “culture war” is the “distraction”.
Saturday’s Match Of The Day will go ahead without a presenter, pundits and several regular commentators.
The row was sparked by Lineker’s response on Twitter to a Home Office video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the Government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats.
Lineker wrote: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.
“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”
Current BBC guidelines state staff need to follow editorial guidelines and editorial oversight on social media in the same way as when doing content.
Lineker is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent member of staff, and is not responsible for news or political content so does not need to adhere to the same rules on impartiality.