A mess of the BBC’s own making

Published: Monday, 13 March 2023

Ok. A few thoughts on Lineker-gate which might stem the flow of people asking what I’ve made of the mess at the BBC these last few days. And thank goodness the whole sorry saga is nearly over as I write (Monday)

In my opinion Lineker was spot on with half the message he originally posted. The reference to the Nazi’s was clumsy. And if I asked him what part of the 1930’s he was referring to I’m quite certain he wouldn’t know. There was no need to go there. But I agree with him on the immigration issue. Whether he has a right to express his thoughts is what the whole row is about of course. I can’t say it hasn’t been fun watching the Torygraph, Mail and the Sun whip themselves into a frenzy over it.😂.

BBC boundaries on what staff can and can’t say have clearly never applied to Lineker. He can argue all day long that he’s not ‘staff’, but ask anyone who he works for and the answer will be the BBC. If you sign up to work for/represent an organisation, business, football club, surely you have to abide by their rules?

But It’s too late for BBC management or this Tory govt to complain about what Lineker has got to say. The horse has bolted.

Lineker has got form in this area and plenty of it. For instance, the way he and the publicly-funded BBC covered the WC in Qatar was nothing short of a disgrace.

The posturing that went with their coverage was a nonsense. To deny licence fee paying viewers full coverage of the opening ceremony was a dereliction of one the BBC’s primary functions of ‘fair and balanced’ coverage - the thing they’re arguing about now. I don’t know if Lineker was asked to deliver his inaccurate monologue by senior management - or whether they simply looked the other way when he did, but their decision making was always going to have consequences.

The hypocrisy of Lineker’s moral preaching and “boycott of principles” was laid bare when it was revealed he’d happily lined his own principle-free bank account with 7-figures of Qatari money for years. We’re still to hear Joe Lycett’s response to that.

But having allowed that stunt to take place - how can they now rear up about the contents of his tweet last week? Or anything else that he’s got to say?

I’m afraid what happened at the weekend - when BBC sport was effectively silenced - was a problem all of their own making. It’s been coming. My concerns weren’t with the front line staff withdrawing their labour, but the people who make the programmes, many of whom are freelancers and will almost certainly have lost money over this.

Senior football commentator Ian Dennis felt it was his duty to carry on working, but he was pilloried on social media for doing so. What about his right to make choices? The beeb didn’t seem to have too many concerns about him. They hung him out to dry.

Sadly it’s too late for us to pretend that sport in general shouldn’t be affected by politics. There have been some very worthy causes that sport has addressed in recent years - but do the people that watch really care? Were Liverpool fans worried about MotD as their team laboured at Bournemouth? What about City fans at Palace? Go lower down the pyramid - Wednesday fans at Portsmouth? I’m sure the row was mentioned at some stage in their day, but I sense a tiredness about the ‘causes’ football chooses to adopt. And it’s not just football.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go back to the days when all that mattered were three points? It was only last week that I was reading stories about PL players suffering with ‘grief fatigue’ as a result of all the pre-match tributes and cause promoting that they’re being asked to do.

Yes - I asked for respect to be shown for John Motson after his passing - but there was a football man that the game needed to recognise in my view. Not everyone agreed and I realise I’m arguing against the more general point I’m advocating.

But I do believe that the minutes applause or silence has become too common place. Did Forest and Everton really have to pause pre-match to remember the victims of the Greek train crash because the Forest owner, Evangelos Marinakis is Greek? Should managers be wearing lapel badges promoting one cause or another every week? Surely it dilutes the impact for a time when something really matters?

Please - can we get back to when football fans could just enjoy a day out watching their team?

They don’t care who anchors what on tv. If MotD was going to die it would’ve been when the incomparable David Coleman left. Or Jimmy Hill. Or Lynam. Faces come and go - as I know only too well.