Gary Lineker’s most controversial posts – from Rwanda to Brexit to Russian donors

Gary Lineker appears to have got himself into a spot of bother again – after posting photos of Defence Secretary Grant Shapps along with different names he has been accused of using in the past.

The government’s candidate to be the new BBC chair told MPs at a pre-appointment hearing the post on X probably broke BBC guidelines.

Samir Shah also said he did not think it was “helpful” the presenter had signed a letter calling for the end of the government’s Rwanda scheme.

Lineker has also criticised Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis, who accused the TV presenter of breaching the BBC’s impartiality rules.

He wrote on social media: “Jonathan hasn’t read the new guidelines… or, should I say, had someone read them to him?”

It’s not the first time the Match Of The Day host has found himself in hot water over his political views on X (Twitter).

Here are some of his most controversial moments – and what the BBC rules say.

Tory migrant policy

Back in March, Lineker called the government’s migrant policy “immeasurably cruel” and compared the language around it to 1930s Germany.

This sent politicians, pundits and what was then called Twitter into a spin.

He was removed from his duties as Match Of The Day presenter after claims he breached their impartiality guidelines.

He later returned to the presenting role after the row prompted a boycott by his fellow football pundits and commentators, hitting TV and radio coverage across the BBC.

In his original tweet, Lineker commented on a video of Suella Braverman unveiling the government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats and saying the UK was being “overwhelmed”.

He wrote: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.

“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”

Brexit and Tories

Lineker is a vocal opponent of Brexit and in 2018 backed the campaign for another EU referendum, saying Brexit felt like it was “going very wrong indeed”.

At the time, a BBC source told Sky News that Lineker’s position as a freelance broadcaster, and a presenter who does not front news or politics programmes, means he was clear of the corporation’s rules on impartiality.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Gary Lineker says he doesn’t regret tweet criticising new bill

As well voicing as his Brexit opinions, he bemoaned “the absolute state of our politics”, saying “imagine how hopeless you’d have to be to still be behind the Tory party in the polls”.

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew hit back, criticising Lineker for speaking out on politics.

He tweeted: “Gary. You are the face of BBC Sport. Please observe BBC editorial guidelines and keep your political views, whatever they are and whatever the subject, to yourself. I’d be sacked if I followed your example. Thanks.”

Lineker made a barbed reply: “Jonathan, I’m the face of my own Twitter account. I’ll continue to tweet what I like and if folk disagree with me then so be it.”

Russian donors

In February 2022, Lineker tweeted about the Conservative Party taking money from “Russian donors”.

Retweeting a story about the then foreign secretary Liz Truss urging football teams to boycott the Champions League final in Russia, he added: “And her party will hand back their donations from Russian donors?”

The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) upheld a complaint and said Lineker’s post “did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards on impartiality”.

The ECU said Lineker was “one of the BBC’s highest profile stars” and said while not being required to uphold the same high standards of impartiality as its journalists, he had an “additional responsibility” because of his profile.

“We expect these individuals to avoid taking sides on party political issues or political controversies and to take care when addressing public policy matters,” the ruling said.

Read more:
Lineker hits back after home sec attack on remarks

Row over sewage

A senior BBC journalist questioned Lineker’s commitment to the BBC’s impartiality rules after Lineker tweeted about sewage.

He wrote on Twitter: “As a politician how could you ever, under any circumstances, bring yourself to vote for pumping sewage into our seas? Unfathomable!”

BBC journalist Neil Henderson asked Lineker whether he had a contract allowing him to breach BBC impartiality, writing, “The BBC lives or dies by its impartiality. If you can’t abide it, get off it.”

He subsequently apologised to the former footballer and deleted the tweets. Under the BBC’s social media rules, criticising colleagues is off-limits.

Qatar World Cup

Lineker opened the BBC’s coverage of the Qatar World Cup with a scathing critique of the host country’s record on human rights and treatment of migrant workers.

The segment analysed the decision to award the tournament to Qatar amid corruption allegations and brought in pundits to discuss workers’ rights and discrimination against LGBT people.

Former BBC journalist Emily Maitlis – who was once found to have breached impartiality guidelines – compared that incident to the response to his recent tweets.

She quote-tweeted him, adding: “Curious that Gary Lineker was free to raise questions about Qatar’s human rights record – with the blessing of the BBC – over the World Cup, but cannot raise questions of human rights in this country if it involves criticism of government policy…”

In advance of the tournament, Lineker criticised then foreign secretary James Cleverly after he suggested LGBT football fans should be “respectful” of Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal, if they visited for the World Cup.

Responding to the comments on Twitter, Lineker said: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything gay. Is that the message?”

A pitch invader runs across the field with a rainbow flag during the World Cup group H soccer match between Portugal and Uruguay, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
Image: A pitch invader runs across the field with a rainbow flag during the World Cup match in Qatar. Pic: AP

The time he didn’t speak out

Reflecting on his comments about the Qatar World Cup, Lineker said he and the BBC should have spoken out more during the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

There were calls for Russia to be stripped of the World Cup or boycotted in 2014 after it annexed Crimea and was blamed by the West for supplying arms to pro-Russian separatists suspected of shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

“I think we were all going how great it was, and this and that and the other, and that’s how sportwashing works,” he said.

“We’ve seen what Putin’s done subsequently, but he’d done it before.

“I think looking back now in hindsight, I think we should probably have spoken out more.”

Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts

The BBC guidelines

Lineker signed a five-year deal with the BBC in 2020, under which he agreed to adhere to their impartiality rules.

These were updated after his return to Match Of The Day.

The latest regulations say high-profile BBC presenters should be able to express their views on political issues as long as they stop short of campaigning.

The BBC did not clarify what would constitute political campaigning for the big-name presenters.

The guidelines also stress the importance of “high standards of civility in public discourse”, which includes treating others with respect, even in the face of abuse and not using offensive or aggressive language.

The BBC has not clarified what would constitute political campaigning for the big-name presenters.

The policy only applies to presenters outside of its news coverage. News presenters will still be subject to stricter impartiality guidelines.

The rules for news and current affairs journalists are very strict, with their personal accounts treated as if they are part of the BBC’s output.

Source : Sky News