BBC sorry for ‘limited sport programming’ after staff stand with Gary Lineker
The BBC has apologised after it was forced to pull several sports programmes following a boycott by presenters and pundits in support of Gary Lineker.
The broadcaster said it would air only “limited sport programming” over the weekend and was “working hard to resolve the situation”.
Saturday’s TV and radio sporting timetables were changed at the last minute and Sunday’s Match Of The Day 2 has also been thrown into question.
It comes after Lineker was told to step back from hosting the Saturday edition of the highlights programme in a row over impartiality.
The show will be limited to around 20 minutes and will not include accompanying commentary or analysis due to the broadcaster not having the rights to the Premier League’s global commentary feed, according to reports.
Fellow presenters including Alex Scott, Kelly Somers and Jason Mohammad said they were pulling out of their shows, which resulted in Football Focus and Final Score being scrapped from the BBC One schedule, while 5 Live’s radio coverage was also altered.
In a statement, a BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC will only be able to bring limited sport programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that.
“We are sorry for these changes which we recognise will be disappointing for BBC sport fans.
“We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon.”
On Saturday, Bargain Hunt aired in place of Football Focus on BBC One at noon, while The Repair Shop is due to run instead of Final Score at 4.30pm.
Ahead of the antiques show starting, a continuity announcer said: “Saturday lunchtime on BBC One, now, in a change to the schedule, it’s Bargain Hunt.”
Match Of The Day is due to go ahead on Saturday evening without a presenter, pundits and several regular commentators, but the Sunday edition may also face disruption after football pundit Jermain Defoe announced he would not appear.
Defoe tweeted: “It’s always such a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I have taken the decision to stand down from my punditry duties. @GaryLineker.”
BBC Radio 5 Live was also affected on Saturday, with host Mark Chapman not at the helm for 5 Live Sport.
His stance throws further doubt into whether Match Of The Day 2 will air as normal on Sunday as he is due to host.
BBC presenter Colin Murray said in a tweet, of 5 Live’s Fighting Talk not airing: “No @FightingTalk316 today, for obvious reasons.
“In the interest of transparency, this was a decision taken by the entire FT team and myself.”
Prerecorded content replaced the live broadcasts with The Kammy & Ben’s Proper Football Podcast aired during Fighting Talk’s slot followed by The Footballer’s Football Podcast which played on Radio 5 Live when 5 Live Sport would have aired.
Lineker did not answer questions from reporters when he left his home in south-west London on Saturday morning.
His son Harry later told reporters that he was on his way to watch a Leicester City match
As he left to walk the dog, he said: “He has gone to Leicester to watch the game. He will be back this evening.”
Read more: The BBC has trashed its football coverage and more over the Gary Lineker tweets
Former Arsenal star and England player Alex Scott earlier in the day confirmed she would not host Football Focus, writing on Twitter: “I made a decision last night that even though I love my show and we have had an incredible week winning an SJA for football focus that it doesn’t feel right for me to go ahead with the show today.
“Hopefully I will be back in the chair next week.”
Kelly Somers also confirmed she will not be presenting any BBC show on Saturday, after former England footballers Alan Shearer and Ian Wright announced on Friday night they would be boycotting MOTD in solidarity with Lineker.
Pundit Glenn Murray pulled out of appearing on Football Focus and Final Score on Saturday.
The former Brighton striker tweeted: “Was meant to be up in Media City today but reflecting last night I felt it was the right thing to do to step away from Focus & Score today.
“Hoping normal service resumes next week.”
Welsh presenter Jason Mohammad also confirmed he would not be hosting Final Score, tweeting: “As you know, Final Score is a TV show very close to my heart.
“However – I have this morning informed the BBC that I will not be presenting the show this afternoon on BBC One.”
Football pundit Dion Dublin tweeted: “In Solidarity with my BBC Sport colleagues NO 5live for me today!”
Like Dublin, former Everton midfielder Leon Osman announced he would not appear on 5 Live’s coverage as planned.
He tweeted: “No BBC 5Live commentary for me today in support of my friends and colleagues”.
On Friday evening, several Match Of The Day commentators shared a joint statement online, announcing they would be stepping down from Saturday’s broadcast.
The commentators, including Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen and Steven Wyeth, said they did “not feel it would be appropriate to take part in the programme” given the current circumstances.
In a previous statement, the BBC said the programme would “focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry”, saying it understood the position of its presenters.
Lineker was taken off air for a tweet which compared the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.
The broadcaster 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 BBC director-general Greg Dyke said the corporation had made a “mistake” and “undermined its own credibility” by taking Lineker off air.
A spokesman for the Professional Footballers’ Association said in a statement on Twitter that they had “been informed that players involved in today’s games will not be asked to participate in interviews with Match Of The Day”.
It continued: “The PFA have been speaking to members who wanted to take a collective position and to be able to show their support for those who have chosen not to be part of tonight’s programme.
“During those conversations we made clear that, as their union, we would support all members who might face consequences for choosing not to complete their broadcast commitments.
“This is a common sense decision that ensures players won’t now be put in that position.”
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