Gary Lineker‘s BBC career was hanging by a thread last night.
He has dramatically been dropped from Match of the Day for his anti-Tory comments on social media. But the decision sparked a meltdown at the broadcaster when fellow hosts Alan Shearer and Ian Wright pulled out of tonight’s football show in solidarity.
BBC bosses had told Lineker either to stop his politicised posts or give up working for the corporation.
Last night a senior source said: ‘It’s now up to Lineker – he needs to choose.’ Another well-placed insider described the presenters’ mutiny as a ‘proper BBC crisis’.
Lineker is said to have been unwilling to apologise for his tweet this week in which he likened the Government’s migrant crackdown to 1930s Germany.
Gary Lineker, 62, (pictured outside his home yesterday) will not present Match Of The Day this evening following
The Match of the Day host accused ministers of using ‘language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s’
The BBC’s Match of the Day is in ‘crisis’ with no presenters, pundits or commentators for the first time in its 59-year history after the corporation’s decision to boot Gary Lineker off air led to mass walkouts
The BBC said it had decided he would ‘step back’ from presenting Match of the Day ‘until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media’. It said it felt that the 62-year-old presenter – its highest-paid star on £1.35million a year – had broken rules with ‘his recent social media activity’.
But the statement came into question last night. Sources close to Lineker stressed he had not agreed to take a break from Match of the Day and was ‘taken off air’.
ITV political editor Robert Peston said the former England captain had also rejected ‘the idea that he breached social media guidelines’ – partly because this was not in his contract. Dan Walker of Channel 5 News read out a text from Lineker saying: ‘They’ve told me I have to step back.’
Wright was the first to say he would not appear on Match of the Day tonight in protest.
The former Arsenal and England striker posted: ‘Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.’
This was followed by an announcement from Shearer that he was also pulling out of BBC1’s flagship football show.
Former England player Alex Scott also appeared to rule herself out, tweeting a short video which showed US politician Bernie Sanders saying ‘Nah! Not me.’ Pundit Jermaine Jenas – regarded as an eventual successor to Lineker – said he was not due to be on tonight but would have boycotted the show.
BBC quiz presenter Richard Osman branded the decision to take Lineker off air ‘pathetic’.
BBC bosses told the former England striker yesterday afternoon that he either had to stop his politicised posts or quit the BBC altogether
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also backed the hosts, tweeting: ‘Well done Gary Lineker for standing up for refugees. Well done Ian Wright for showing the meaning of solidarity.’ It is understood that some members of the Match of the Day production team have contacted their union to ask if they could legally go on strike in protest at Lineker’s treatment.
Philippa Childs, the head of broadcast union Bectu, which represents thousands of BBC staff, said: ‘This is a deeply concerning decision from the BBC. It will give the appearance they have bowed to political pressure from ministers to take someone off air for disagreeing with the policies of the current Government.’
On Tuesday Lineker said Suella Braverman’s Illegal Migration Bill was ‘beyond awful’.
He said it was 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 was then accused of ‘thumbing his nose’ at BBC bosses with further social media posts attacking the Government. The broadcaster spent days dithering before issuing its bombshell announcement at 5pm yesterday.
‘The BBC has been in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days,’ said a spokesman. ‘We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines.
‘The BBC has decided he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media. When it comes to leading our football and sports coverage, Gary is second to none.
‘We have never said that Gary should be an opinion-free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.’ Tory former culture secretary Nadine Dorries welcomed the decision to take Lineker off air.
Regular Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson said he and other talking heads have vowed not to participate in Saturday’s program, which has been boycotted by nearly all of its regular stars
Fellow football pundit Ian Wright tweeted that he would also shun presenting Match of the Day while the ban is in place, expressing ‘solidarity’ with his co-host
Alan Shearer is the latest withdrawal from Match of the Day, tweeting this evening: ‘I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD [on Saturday] night’
Match of the Day’s decision to take Gary Lineker (left) off air over his comments about the Government has led to a walkout from fellow hosts Alan Shearer (centre) and Ian Wright (right)
She said: ‘News that Gary Lineker has been stood down for investigation is welcome and shows the BBC are serious about impartiality.
‘Gary is entitled to his views – free speech is paramount. Lots of non-public service broadcasters can accommodate him and his views and he would be better paid.’
Red Wall Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith said he did not want to silence opinion but added: ‘He’s clearly overstepped the mark here. What he said was grossly offensive and he doesn’t seem to be showing any contrition whatsoever.’
Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy said it was ‘hard to see Lineker coming back’ following the BBC’s decision.
A BBC spokesman added: ‘Some of our pundits have said that they don’t wish to appear on the programme while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary. We understand their position and we have decided that the programme will focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry.’
Alex Scott has also ruled herself out of tonight’s show, sharing a meme with the word ‘nah’
Many prominent figures have condemned the BBC’s move – even Gary Lineker’s own son George
Lineker’s tweeting history has raised more than a few eyebrows over the years
Does the BBC need Gary Lineker more than he needs them? How ex-footballer has amassed £26m fortune with podcasts, broadcasting and advertising deals (just don’t mention the two divorces and HMRC tax row)
Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said he would boycott Match Of The Day amid the Gary Lineker row.
Sharing a headline saying the presenter will be ‘stepping back’ from the show, Mr Farron tweeted: ‘And I will be stepping back from watching the programme until the @BBC grows a backbone. Still, I’m sure we can count on the Free Speech Union to stand up against this hysterical act of cancellation…’
Henry Winter, the chief football writer for The Times who has regularly appeared on the BBC’s Radio 5 Live, said the broadcaster should be ‘ashamed’ by its decision to ask Gary Lineker to step back from hosting Match Of The Day.
‘Disappointing that coverage of (Match Of The Day) dictated by politicians,’ he tweeted.
‘Not what BBC should be about. BBC should be ashamed. Should be independent of No 10. Ian Wright replaced by Ian Duncan-Smith?
‘Many good people working for BBC football who deserve better from their craven bosses.’
By Martin Robinson, Chief Reporter for MailOnline
Gary Lineker earns £1.36-million-a-year from the BBC for Match of the Day, Sports Personality of the Year and other shows in a near three-decade broadcasting career that has helped him build a £26million nest egg.
The 62-year-old is the highest-paid ‘talent’ at the corporation but as the Beeb considers standing by him yet again over his highly political tweets, experts are pondering if another reprieve is a clear sign they need him much more than he needs them.
The footballer turned broadcaster has amassed much of his fortune since starting at the BBC in the mid-1990s – but insists he does not fear leaving over the row where he compared Tory policy on migrants in boats to Nazi Germany.
And MailOnline can reveal that he has close to ten other income streams with four years until the twice-married father-of-four hits retirement age – although a legal battle with HMRC over a £4.9million tax bill looms large in 2023.
Lineker has four sons with his first wife, Michelle: Angus, 24, Tobias, 26, Harry, 28, and the eldest George, who is 30. He divorced from his second wife, Danielle Bux, six years ago. He said recently ‘I’ve been married twice. I’ve got four kids. That’s an expensive business’.
Lineker promotes his own range of sunglasses and glasses, which he handpicks, for High Street chain Vision Express
Lineker is also an investor in an insurance company which aims to reduce premiums for car and van drivers, as long as their driving is tracked
Apart from his high-profile presenting roles, he features in big-brand television advertising campaigns but also runs a TV production company – Goalhanger Films – which he uses to sell even more of his work to the BBC.
And it is Goalhanger’s burgeoning podcast business that is predicted to make him even richer. His first shows were recorded at the kitchen table of his £4.8million Victorian property in Barnes, south-west London. He is also believed to own a property in Surrey where he has hosted at least two refugees.
The Goalhanger stable also includes The Rest Is Politics, hosted by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, and The Rest Is History, presented by Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook – the latter widely considered as one of the UK’s best podcasts.
Gary’s son Harry works for his dad’s business, which has a growing list of hits including, you guessed it, Gary’s own Match of the Day: Top Ten show with Alan Shearer, Micah Richards, Ian Wright and others. Eldest son George is co-founder of Your Business Number, Angus is a business development manager and Tobias is a DJ.
Last year Lineker hailed the ‘incredible growth’ of the podcast arm, which is now signed up with global entertainment agency WME, even admitting that he could leave the BBC to work on it full time.
He has three years left on his lucrative BBC deal – but with calls for him to be sacked over his tweets, it may not hit him that hard financially he moved on.
He told The New Statesman last year when asked if he might work on Goalhanger full time: ‘Maybe. Who knows? Life’s thrown many things at me. And I’m 61. We don’t really know what the boundaries are in terms of growth. But it’s a very, very good business’.
Gary Lineker married his first wife Michelle in 1986 but they later divorced. He later married Danielle Bux but they divorced in 2016
Gary with his four lookalike sons in 2013: Harry, Angus, George and Tobias (left to right)
Mr Lineker is currently appealing in the courts after HMRC pursued him for £4.9million under IR35 legislation – rules designed to stop contractors working as ‘disguised employees’.
The tax man believes that Lineker should be treated as an employee by the BBC because he does so much regular work for them, meaning the star should pay more to the treasury.
Mr Lineker disagrees. Last month a preliminary hearing in London was told Lineker has now paid the income tax bill in full but he is appealing.
HMRC pursued him for the sum that it claimed should have been paid on income received between 2013 and 2018.
Lineker insists all taxes were paid on the income through a partnership set up in 2012 with his ex-wife Danielle Bux and is appealing against the demand.
The presenter is expected to argue that his partnership Gary Lineker Media (GLM) is required to funnel his income through because of the wide variety of work he does.
HMRC will claim his extensive work for BT Sport and the BBC means he should be classed as an employee for tax purposes, because he agrees to do a minimum number of games and shows for the broadcaster.
One of his first TV jobs away from football was as the face of Walkers crisps, and the Leicester-born star last year signed a new three-year deal with the firm – the snacks are made in his home city.
The deal sees him feature in television advert campaigns and on social media. He has been working with the brand for more than 27 years, first teaming up with Walkers in 1994, and has now appeared in 150 adverts.
Lineker is also an investor in an insurance company which aims to reduce premiums for drivers between the ages of 17 and 25.
Ticker sends a box to the driver which they then place on their windscreen.
The gadget pairs to a phone via bluetooth, sending the driver’s behaviour on the road to the Ticker app, with the idea that the information can be used to provide cheaper insurance for safer young motorists.
Described as the future of car insurance, the company is also backed by former Formula 1 driver Mark Blundell.
Gary Lineker has been working with the brand for 27 years, first teaming up with Walkers in 1994, and has now appeared in 150 adverts
In 2019, along with his friend and fellow broadcaster Danny Baker, Lineker published a book full of football anecdotes called Behind Closed Doors
He is also a director of ‘GCGL Properties Ltd’ – described on Companies House as a ‘development of building projects’ business.
As part of Lineker’s £1.36 million deal with the Beeb, he presents Match Of The Day and other big sporting events. He is also one of the hosts of the Sports Personality of the Year event.
Few BBC viewers will know that some of the programmes Lineker hosts are not part of his deal with the broadcaster but shows he sells to them through his production company.
In 2020 he hosted and made Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health through Goalhanger Films. He has made others for the Corporation with stars including Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney, and featuring his beloved Leicester City.
He also produces podcasts for the BBC. He recently announced a show he is making about tennis superstar Serena Williams, which he has sold to Amazon.
He made a reputed £3 million from investing in Ingenie, a car insurance firm which was sold in 2014
He also works works for LaLiga TV. Lineker quit one big-money deal at BT Sport for another – transferring to La Liga to present football matches from the top Spanish division, live from Barcelona.
Lineker still speaks Spanish after his time playing for the Catalan giants and he signed a multi-year contract with LaLigaTV.
Speaking of the job, he said he was ‘thrilled’, adding: ‘I have fond memories of my time playing in Spain and very much look forward to sharing the excitement of La Liga with viewers in the UK and elsewhere.’
There are also books.
In 2019, along with his friend and fellow broadcaster Danny Baker, Lineker published a book full of football anecdotes called Behind Closed Doors.
A bestseller, it was culled from a podcast the pair presented and reveals jaw-dropping stories from the dressing room and open-top bus ceremonies, apparently ‘all served up with lashings of wit and ribald humour.’
As one of television’s most prominent spectacle-wearers, it was only a matter of time before Lineker cashed in on them.
He promotes his own range of sunglasses and glasses, which he handpicks, for high street chain Vision Express.
The firm says in the ‘edit’, Lineker ‘pays homage to the various fashion eras and styles which have influenced him throughout his life, specifically Italian and Mediterranean styles.’
And he’s hoping to score with the public in terms of pricing – Lineker spectacle frames cost from £99 and sunglasses are from £39.
Lineker is renowned for his snappy suits when presenting his TV shows, which was clearly noticed by upmarket shirt brand TM Lewin, who then signed him up to promote the label.
He appeared on its website where he advertised the budget range, starting at £25.
He also used to encourage his millions of social media followers to shop at TM Lewin stores before the business went online only.
In 2021 it was announced that Lineker would be straddling the BBC and ITV after being lured by the latter to host a new game show, named Sitting On A Fortune.
In the show contestants can win up to £100,000 and it seems the presenter has hit the jackpot too.
It’s not known how much he is being paid but TV insiders suggest ‘he won’t be doing it for peanuts’.
Lineker said: ‘I am delighted to be hosting what I think and hope will be a show that people love, full of tension with high stakes and bags of drama from start to finish – everything a great game show should be.’
A second series is billed to return in 2023.