Gary Lineker has deflected criticism after social media users accused the BBC of scoring a World Cup own goal by failing to broadcast the opening ceremony in Qatar on TV.
In a tweet, the former England striker instead blamed Qatari organisers for the TV blunder, saying timings of the spectacle had changed ‘very recently’.
The world’s largest footballing contest opened with a glitzy ceremony at the Al Bayt stadium in Doha in which actor Morgan Freeman delivered a rousing monologue and Jung Kook of South Korean boy band BTS took to the stage for a live performance.
But viewers in Britain missed out on much of the display because the BBC was 20 minutes late to the show, with the broadcaster covering the Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur on TV instead.
The star-studded World Cup opener was shown on the red button, BBC iPlayer, and on the BBC Sport website, but not on the network’s main channels.
However, the move prompted a backlash online, with people demanding to know why the BBC refused to broadcast the opening chapter of the World Cup on TV.
The World Cup’s opening ceremony in Qatar featured Hollywood legend Morgan Freeman, who gave a rousing monologue during the show, pictured
Supporters have now arrived at the Al Bayt stadium for yesterday afternoon’s opening match under a glaring sun in temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius
Dancers perform during the opening ceremony prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match between Qatar and Ecuador
But the BBC was criticised for not broadcasting the spectacle live on TV, instead choosing to air it on the red button. Now Gary Lineker, pictured, has defended the move following a backlash on social media
Among those blasting the move was football writer Grace Robertson, who tweeted: ‘Yeah, BBC just decided to ignore the opening ceremony entirely. Partly just because they were showing the WSL until 5 minutes ago, but they’ve been straight into a basic overview of the Qatar talking points.’
The criticism prompted a response from former England striker, Lineker who said the move had been due to a ‘very recent’ timing change.
In a tweet, the 61-year-old football pundit said: ‘Not true. It was shown live in its entirety on, BBC Sport website and red button. The timing of the opening ceremony was changed to an earlier time very recently and WSL was already confirmed on. If you wanted to watch it, you could.’
But the reply failed to quell the fury among some fans online, with many accusing the BBC of hypocrisy to maintain the broadcast rights to the tournament while simultaneously restricting viewership.
While one person said they were ‘literally in tears’ and tweeted: ‘Gareth I am disgusted with the BBC. I don’t watch football but was looking so forward to seeing the opening ceremony. Invited my whole family around and cooked dinner for them only to have no opening ceremony on the BBC. Literally in tears. Will never pay TV Licence again.’
Morgan Freeman (L) performs during the opening ceremony prior to the during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar
Dancers perform during the opening ceremony prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Dancers perform during the opening ceremony ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group A football match between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor
Fireworks explode during the opening ceremony prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar
Three Camels, together with their handlers during the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022 at the Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor. Picture date: Sunday November 20, 2022
Mr Lineker sympathised with the football fan and replied: ‘Bless you. Even though the World Cup opening ceremony is rarely shown live as it’s nothing like the Olympics equivalent it was shown this time in its entirety on, the BBC Sport website and the red button. It’s still there if you’d really like to see it?’
Once the show ended the BBC switched to its team in Doha and refused to show the remainder of the opening ceremony on terrestrial TV, instead broadcasting a pre-packaged report on Qatar’s questionable human rights record and the controversy surrounding the tournament.
One social media user raged: ‘So BBC aren’t showing the full opening ceremony because they don’t agree with Qatar’s human rights record…. I get it… but why are they there then?’ one commentator said.
While someone else chipped in, saying: ‘@BBC where is the world cup opening ceremony? I pay tv licence to you guys, I don’t want to hear and watch your negativity! If you didn’t want to show it you should have given it to ITV or just boycott from showing it!’
And one asked incredulously: ‘So no one aired the world cup opening ceremony in the IL and the BBC just use that slot to preach instead while their presenters are making millions?’
In order to watch the opening ceremony, viewers had to tune into the BBC Sport channel via iPlayer or to find the relevant channel on the red button.
Social media users published a storm of enraged posts after the BBC chose not to broadcast the World Cup opening ceremony on terrestrial TV
On Monday, Good Morning Britain’s Richard Madeley expressed his confusion at the decision not to broadcast the opening show on TV, telling viewers: ‘I wonder why they did that? I thought that was a bad decision.
‘If you’re going to go and you’re going to cover it with qualification and commentary about the situation you’re in, you’d surely show the opening ceremony. It’s an odd political decision.’
A BBC spokesperson previously told Metro.co.uk: ‘Full build up and coverage of the World Cup has been available across the BBC, including the opening ceremony on iPlayer.’
Morgan Freeman kicked off the World Cup opening ceremony in Qatar today in front of the country’s royals and rows of empty seats following weeks of criticism over the country’s human rights record.
The actor narrated the event’s opening segment titled ‘The Calling’, telling viewers ‘we all gather here in one big tribe’ as fans descended on Doha city centre for the imminent kick off of the world’s greatest football festival.
He spoke with Qatari entrepreneur Ghanim al Muftah – a FIFA World Cup Ambassador who was born with Caudal Regression Syndrome, a rare disorder which impairs the development of the lower spine – who said: ‘We sent out the call because everyone is welcome. This is an invitation to the whole world.’
Freeman replied: ‘I remember, even after hearing the call, instead of seeing another way, we dismissed it and demanded our own way. And now the world feels even more distant and divided.’
Morgan Freeman fronted the start of the World Cup opening ceremony in Qatar on Sunday
He appeared in a segment titled ‘The Calling’, telling fans: ‘We all gather here in one big tribe’
Freeman’s appearance at the ceremony also sparked fury among fans on social media
A show then unfolded on the pitch featuring hordes of dancers, a light show, camels and a performance of a new tournament song called Dreamers featuring singer Jung Kook of K-pop boy band BTS, alongside Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi.
But Freeman’s appearance at the ceremony also sparked fury among fans on social media with one calling it ‘disappointing’ and another saying: ‘When you have to act out a scene with Morgan Freeman ”welcoming the entire world” to your country for a soccer tournament, maybe you shouldn’t host the World Cup.’
One viewer insisted it was a ‘slap in the face’ to see the American in the stadium, while another expressed surprise the actor would ‘tie his name to this’, concluding that he must have received a handsome sum for the performance.
Empty seats could be seen within the Al Bayt Stadium during the ceremony, which featured scenes including ‘Leta’Arafo (To Know One Another)’, followed by ‘Chants of Nations’, a World Cup Medley, a showcase of the official mascots and Jung Kook of South Korean boy band BTS.
Qatar has faced a barrage of criticism over its treatment of foreign workers, LGBT rights and social restrictions, staking its reputation on delivering a smooth tournament.