The BBC has apologised to staff, contributors, presenters and viewers over the Gary Lineker saga.
The Match of the Day presenter will return to his role next weekend after a weekend of turmoil at the British broadcaster.
The BBC was forced to reduce its football coverage on Saturday and Sunday amid major backlash over its decision to sanction Lineker over his tweets criticising the UK government's new asylum seeker policy.
As soon as the decision was announced, fellow pundit Ian Wright said he would refuse to come on the show in solidarity – and was quickly followed by many other well-known pundits, commentators and other staff.
Saturday night's Match Of The Day aired for just 20 minutes without commentary, pundit analysis, post-match interviews and its theme music.
After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming. 1/4
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 13, 2023
In a series of tweets this morning, Lineker thanked his colleagues for their “remarkable show of solidarity”.
“After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this,” he said.
“I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.
He said he remains proud to work for “the best and fairest broadcaster in the world”.
“A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away,” he said.
“It’s heart-warming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you.”
He said the UK remains a country of “predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people”.
In a statement this morning, BBC Director General Tim Davie apologised.
“Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences,” he said. “I apologise for this.”
He said the BBC would now focus on clearing up any confusion over its social media guidelines.
“I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air,” he said.
“Impartiality is important to the BBC. It is also important to the public. The BBC has a commitment to impartiality in its Charter and a commitment to freedom of expression.
“That is a difficult balancing act to get right where people are subject to different contracts and on-air positions and with different audience and social media profiles.
“The BBC’s social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes-difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task. It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate.”
He said the guidelines would now be examined by an independent review – with a “particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs”.
“Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lineker said: “I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on-air.”
The BBC’s highest-paid presenter found himself in trouble with BBC bosses after he called the UK’s new asylum seekers policy “immeasurable cruel” and compared the language the British Government used to set it out to "that used by Germany in the 30s".
That led to UK Government ministers claiming his comments ‘diminish the unspeakable tragedy” of the holocaust and the BBC claiming he had breached its social media guidelines.
The decision to take him off the air over the weekend was widely criticised, with journalists, sports personalities and commentators coming out in support of him.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, London-based journalist Enda Brady said the BBC is also expected to announce a review of its social media guidelines following the controversy.
With reporting from IRN ...