Gary Lineker will return as presenter of the flagship BBC football show Match of the Day, the broadcaster has said, ending a crisis sparked by his criticism of the UK government’s new asylum policy.
The two sides said on Monday they had come to an agreement that would see Lineker return to screens and the launch of an internal review into the corporation’s social media guidelines.
The former England footballer was suspended on Friday after using Twitter last week to compare the language used to launch the new policy to the rhetoric of Nazi-era Germany.
His comments and removal sparked days of frenzied media coverage, that escalated on Friday after fellow presenters, pundits and commentators refused to work over the weekend in support.
That threw the publicly funded broadcaster’s sports coverage into disarray, curtailing its highlights package to just 20 minutes, without commentary or analysis.
But, on Monday BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “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.”
BBC presenter Lineker punished over UK refugee policy criticism
‘Surreal last few days’
In a joint statement, Lineker, 62, said: “I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”
He tweeted separately that the last few days, during which he has been mobbed outside by London home by reporters, photographers and camera crews, had been “surreal”.
But in a parting shot he added: “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.”
Davie apologised for the disruption to the service, saying he recognised the “potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance”.
“Impartiality is important to the BBC. 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,” he said.
The independent review will look at how the guidance applies to staff and freelancers such as Lineker, he added.
BBC crisis escalates as supporters rally behind Lineker after asylum remark