11 March 2023

Gary Lineker’s history of political tweets during time as top-earning presenter

11 March 2023

Gary Lineker will “step back” from presenting Match Of The Day until he and the BBC have reached an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media, the broadcaster said.

His tweets have attracted controversy in recent years while he has been the corporation’s top-earing presenter, earning £1.35m last year according to the BBC’s 2021-22 annual report.

He has said he does not have to follow strict impartiality guidelines because he freelances for the corporation.

The BBC’s decision was sparked by the presenter’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.

I’m the face of my own Twitter account. I’ll continue to tweet what I like and if folk disagree with me then so be it

He said language she used was “not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.”

The 62-year-old ex-England striker 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.”

Lineker is Match Of The Day’s longest-serving presenter and has been the face of the programme for more than 20 years.

He has tweeted widely about refugees and immigration policy where he has voiced support for a liberal approach to border controls, and he also expressed support for a second EU referendum.

During last year’s Qatar World Cup he led criticism of Foreign Secretary James Cleverly for suggesting LGBT fans be “respectful of the host nation”.

He posted in response to the cabinet minister’s comments: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything Gay. Is that the message?”

The same month the BBC found he had breached its impartiality guidelines over comments he made in February 2022 asking then-Foreign Secretary Liz Truss if her party would “hand back donations from Russian donors”.

In August 2022, BBC journalist Neil Henderson questioned whether Mr Lineker had a contract which allowed him to breach BBC impartiality after he tweeted about sewage being pumped into the sea.

The presenter had posted online: “As a politician how could you ever, under any circumstances, bring yourself to vote for pumping sewage into our seas? Unfathomable!”

In October 2020 he said BBC director-general Tim Davie was “perfectly happy” with his conduct on social media after new impartiality guidelines were introduced.

In 2018 he was criticised by BBC cricket presenter Jonathan Agnew after Lineker posted a string of tweets criticising the Conservative Party.

He wrote in one tweet: “Imagine how hopeless you’d have to be to still be behind the Tory party in the polls. The absolute state of our politics.”

Mr Agnew replied: “Gary. You are the face of BBC Sport. Please observe BBC editorial guidelines and keep your political views, whatever they are and whatever the subject, to yourself.

“I’d be sacked if I followed your example. Thanks.”

Mr Lineker responded: “I’m the face of my own Twitter account. I’ll continue to tweet what I like and if folk disagree with me then so be it.”

Lineker’s Match Of The Day career follows a 16-year England and international footballing career.

Born in November 1960, Lineker began his footballing career at Leicester City in 1978, finishing as the First Division’s joint top goal scorer in 1984-85.

He later moved to Everton in 1985, Spanish giants Barcelona a year later and Tottenham Hotspur in 1989, where he won the FA Cup with the side.

He made his England debut in 1984, earning 80 caps and scoring 48 goals during an eight-year career in international football.

Lineker is England’s fourth-highest goal scorer behind Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney and Bobby Charlton, and received the Golden Boot for being the top scorer in the 1986 Fifa World Cup.

He is also a podcast producer and his company Goalhanger, which he set up in 2014, set up a podcast division in early 2022.

It swiftly became responsible for some of the UK’s most popular shows including The Rest Is Politics, hosted by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, The Rest Is History, presented by Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook, and Empire, with William Dalrymple and Anita Anand.

He has also presented Have I Got News For You.

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