Gary Lineker will return to the BBC this weekend with no further punishment after his anti-Tory tweets were retracted by BBC bosses – and the star is expected to receive an apology for taking him off the air.
In an extraordinary capitulation, general manager Tim Davey has moved to secure a deal for the footballer turned broadcaster, 62, so he can present FA Cup coverage this weekend.
It marks a huge victory for the former England captain, the BBC’s highest-paid star, earning £1.35m a year, compared to the BBC’s £5.3bn a year in the crisis sparked by his anti-Conservative tweets.
The class saw Match of the Day and Match of the Day 2 reduced to short shows without presenters, experts, commentators, or their famous theme tune. On-screen talent including former England strikers Alan Shearer and Ian Wright declined to appear in ‘solidarity’ with Lineker. There was even a pro-Linker protest outside the BBC in Salford.
In order to end the row, the BBC is expected to have to undertake a review of its guidelines on impartiality for independent presenters such as Lineker, 62.
Even today, Lineker refused to be drawn into his future as he walked his dog in southwest London yesterday. But last night, Sky News reported sources close to Lineker were “increasingly confident” the dispute would be resolved “to his satisfaction” within the next 24 hours.
Lineker 1 – BBC 0: Gary, who was pictured with his dog in south west London yesterday, will be back on TV this weekend after BBC bosses backtrack.
BBC Director-General Tim Davie, pictured here in an interview with Noumiya Iqbal yesterday, denied he was quitting over the row. Yesterday, the Prime Minister refused to give him his confidence
The “ambiguity” in the presenter’s contract means the company cannot force him to follow its rules, which prohibit employees from making political comments. Lawyers are said to have advised the BBC that it could not sack him without paying millions of pounds in damages.
The BBC is said to have offered a “shocking review” of its social media guidelines, times reports.
Tim Davey’s future may be in doubt after he has been criticized for his handling of the issue. Rishi Sunak will not be tempted if he retains confidence in him or in BBC chief Richard Sharpe.
The BBC is currently due to broadcast two of the four FA Cup matches this weekend, including the much-anticipated clash between the Premier League side and Grimsby Town, but a disruption to its football coverage since Friday has cast doubt on the matter.
And Lineker is set to host one of those shows — not his Match of the Day highlight this weekend, according to reports.
In a sign of an improvement in the row, a BBC spokesperson said: “We are working hard to find a solution and hope he will be back with us as soon as possible.”
A BBC source told The Telegraph that things were “moving quickly”, adding: “Tim Davey has been clear he wants to resolve the situation and see the DoT presenter on the air again.
“Gary and his representatives have been in talks for several days now, and those conversations are continuing.”
Protesters gather outside the main BBC Sports studio in Salford to show their support for Gary Lineker
Match of the Day on Saturday was cut to just 20 minutes as announcers, staff and commentators refused to come to work in support of Lineker.
Lineker was seen in public for the first time yesterday after Match of the Day was broadcast without him the night before
Lineker, 62, was suspended from the air by his bosses at the organization on Friday after he criticized the government’s anti-illegal immigration bill, which led to his colleagues walking away.
It comes after the BBC’s chief, Tim Davie, returned from the US yesterday in an effort to defuse the row that has plagued the corporation’s sports coverage this weekend.
“There are hopes that a solution will be found soon, but not all issues have been ‘fully resolved’ at this stage,” the BBC said.
A source added: “Both sides are working on something that satisfies the BBC’s concerns and allows Gary to get back on the air.” Things are going in the right direction.
The BBC’s senior managers are said to fear they will not be able to sack the former England striker, nor force him to follow a social media policy, due to the ambiguity in his contract.
Instead, senior officials believe they will have to pay millions if they are to sack Lineker and potentially lose any legal claim he could later file, The Independent reports.
Lineker is said to be on a 24-month contract, which was negotiated prior to Davy’s arrival.
And despite Davy repeatedly emphasizing the importance of impartiality, Lineker’s contract has not been updated.
Meanwhile, broadcasters, analysts and commentators refused to appear in an act of solidarity, as the match of the second day was broadcast last night without a presenter and for only 14 minutes. An apology was given to viewers before the show.
A continuing announcer said: “Now on BBC One, sorry we couldn’t show our normal second day match including commentary tonight, but here’s the best action from today’s Premier League matches”.
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