Exclusive: Gary Lineker defends BBC axing classified results – and Graeme Souness

·4-min read
Exclusive: Gary Lineker defends BBC axing classified results – and Graeme Souness - PREMIER SPORTS
Exclusive: Gary Lineker defends BBC axing classified results – and Graeme Souness - PREMIER SPORTS

Gary Lineker has defended the BBC’s controversial decision to axe the classified football results, saying he has not listened to them for 30 years.

The Match of the Day presenter claimed there had been a social media “pile-on” after he made a tongue-in-cheek reference to the dropping of the results from BBC Radio's football coverage during last Saturday’s show.

The 61-year-old is one of the BBC's highest-profile personalities, who earns around £1.4 million-a-year from the Corporation.

Lineker said he had no part in the decision to end the 70-year tradition of the classified results being read out, which triggered a raft of complaints from listeners, but defended it.

“Four or five people were seemingly incensed, I know not why, and then it becomes a story and they all pick up on it and it becomes a thing and there’s a bit of a pile-on,” Lineker told Telegraph Sport, in a wide-ranging interview.

“So something that is pretty unimportant in terms of the real world at the moment becomes a big story when it’s not. It’s really not because things move on and things change because no-one relies on that any more to get their results.

“I am not saying it’s right or wrong. It wasn’t my decision. I haven’t listened to the classified results for 30 years. I haven’t got the radio on at that time because I am working. So I don’t know. It might help Match of the Day because people might watch it more because they don’t know the results!

“But these things happen and we always hate change. I don’t know if it will be better if the scores are not read but you will know them anyway. So it seemed to be a bit of a non-story.”

'Sometimes you say things that can be taken the wrong way'

Lineker also defended Graeme Souness, the former Scotland international and Sky Sports pundit, over the sexism row that erupted after he described football as a “man's game” live on air last weekend.

The comments were criticised by several England women’s players, but Lineker insists the response was not warranted.

“He didn’t mean it that way,” said Lineker, who was speaking at an event to promote his involvement in coverage of Spanish football on LaLigaTV, broadcast via Premier Sports. “He just meant the game [between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur] was tough. You do have to have a bit of awareness of the situation and think about things. But sometimes you say things that can be taken the wrong way: we all do it.

“I always get a sense of it myself if I have said something and thought: ‘Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have done that’. Or tweeted something.”

Lineker did delete a tweet celebrating England's historic Euro 2022 win which contained a pun which was branded misogynistic by some feminist campaigners.

“Kelly is England’s heroine, bra none,” Lineker tweeted in reference to match-winner Chloe Kelly removing her shirt and exposing her sports bra as she celebrated.

Chloe Kelly sent Wembley into raptures after netting England's extra-time winner - GETTY IMAGES
Chloe Kelly sent Wembley into raptures after netting England's extra-time winner - GETTY IMAGES

Lineker said his only regret about the tweet was not making a funnier joke.

“There was nothing wrong with that. There was one thing wrong with it,” he said. “About two minutes later I thought, because it was against Germany, I should have written ‘das ist wunder-bra’. It’s a much better joke!

“I was thinking s--- should I delete it and put that one out? And I thought, no, it’s done. But it was a much better joke. I was really annoyed with myself.

“I deleted the tweet because I had a few conversations with a feminist. Under the circumstances of what happened in the game it was certainly not a sexist joke and I said ‘I can only presume you didn’t watch the game?’ and she said ‘I didn’t watch the game’.

“Therein was the problem. But I said to the woman that I would delete the tweet because there will be other women who didn’t see the game who would not understand the context and take it in isolation. So I made that clear and that’s why I did it.”

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