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Gary Lineker will return to host Match of the Day next weekend after Director-General of the BBC, Tim Davie, announced a review into its social media guidance.
Lineker was not involved in this week’s edition of the hugely popular British football show after he became involved in a political row following a Twitter post in which the former England striker criticised the UK Government’s immigration policy.
The BBC asked Lineker to step back from hosting duties, which led to a number of pundits, including Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, as well as commentators refusing to take part.
That forced the BBC to air a much-trimmed version of the show on Saturday and Sunday, only showing highlights of the weekend’s Premier League games with no analysis or commentary.
After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming. 1/4
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 13, 2023
A statement from Davie on Monday acknowledged that the BBC’s social media guidance was open to misinterpretation, promising an independent review into it.
“Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences,” the statement read. “I apologise for this. The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air.
“Impartiality is important to the BBC. It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression. That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on air positions, and with different audience and social media profiles.
“The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate.
“Accordingly, we are announcing a review led by an independent expert – reporting to the BBC – on its existing social media guidance, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs. The BBC and myself are aware that Gary is in favour of such a review.
“Shortly, the BBC will announce who will conduct that review. Whilst this work is undertaken, the BBC’s current social media guidance remains in place.
“Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend.”
Lineker also issued a statement, simply saying: “I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”
The 62-year-old presenter then took to Twitter to go into more detail, writing: “After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.
“I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost three decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday.
“A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you.
“We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you.”