Gary Lineker saga: BBC talks with broadcaster 'moving in right direction' as crisis continues, report

The Gary Lineker saga with the BBC is continuing to drag on but there are hopes it could be resolved in the coming days, with sources saying talks with the presenter are "moving in right direction".

BBC News reported on Monday (NZ time) a resolution could be reached soon but not all issues are "fully resolved" at this stage.

Sporting programming continued to be disrupted on Sunday (local time) with coverage of Match of the Day 2 lasting only 14 minutes. 

The Women’s Super League Chelsea v Manchester United game on BBC Two kicked off with no pre-match presentation and no pundits on Sunday.

Coverage was also limited on Saturday with its flagship Match of the Day programme consisting of only highlights. 

The BBC apologised for the disruption, but they stressed they were "working hard to resolve the situation", a spokesperson for the broadcaster said. 

"The BBC will only be able to bring limited sport programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that," a BBC spokesperson said. 

"We are sorry for these changes which we recognise will be disappointing for BBC sports fans. We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon."

The BBC will be keen to have the issue resolved before the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend, including Manchester City against Burnley on Saturday and Man U vs Fulham on Sunday. 

The Sun is reporting Lineker will be back at the BBC for those games, citing an unnamed source. 

The national broadcaster's director general Tim Davie jetted back from the US for an internal emergency meeting on Monday (local time) with one source saying it would be "carnage" if a breakthrough is not reached on Lineker’s suspension from Match of the Day, according to the Guardian

The saga has seen pressure mount on the chairman of the BBC, Richard Sharp, who has failed to get the backing of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Sharp has been dragged into the saga because of his close ties to the Government and the role he played when Boris Johnson was considering taking a huge loan while he was prime minister. The circumstances of his appointment are being reviewed by the appointments commissioner, according to Sky News UK. 

When asked questions about Sharp from Sky News UK, Sunak decline to offer his backing to the chairman and stressed his appointment was made by his predecessor Boris Johnson.

Chairman of the BBC Richard Sharp.
Chairman of the BBC Richard Sharp. Photo credit: Getty Images

Newshub Europe correspondent Lisette Reymer told AM on Monday the BBC is being called hypocritical for the stance they've taken on Lineker.  

"The other element to consider is that Gary Lineker, not long ago during the Football World Cup, came out with a very strong and controversial and political statement about Qatar hosting the World Cup," she told AM. 

"He was allowed to do that without being told off for not being impartial. So a lot of people saying, well, hang on, if he can be really critical and very political in his views in some cases, then that needs to be kept the same across the board. So a lot of people are saying the BBC is being very hypocritical with their stance." 

The Lineker saga has also raised questions about the "closeness" of the BBC to the Tory Party.

"What a lot of people are asking is that it's very suspicious that the BBC, who in recent months has been criticised for their closeness to the Government, the head of the BBC was caught up in a big controversy about having supported Boris Johnson with a loan before he became Prime Minister," she said. 

"So there has been a big question mark over just how involved the Tory party is with the BBC. So that's why this has really ramped up so much drama." 

Gary Lineker.
Gary Lineker. Photo credit: Getty Images

The uproar comes after Sunak announced a new law that bars the entry of asylum seekers arriving in small boats across the Channel.

Former England football captain Lineker took to Twitter to describe the legislation as a "cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s."

A spokeswoman for Sunak was quick to hit back at Lineker's comments saying they were "not acceptable" while interior Minister Suella Braverman said Lineker's reaction to the policy was "offensive".

The BBC responded by taking Lineker off air as they said there needed to be an agreed position on his use of social media before he can return to presenting.

But this saw a mass walkout by members of the BBC's sports department while other high profile figures lept to the defence of Lineker - who is the BBC's highest-paid presenter and the anchor of the flagship football highlights programme "Match of the Day".

Regular "Match of the Day" co-hosts Alan Shearer and Ian Wright supported their colleague and walked out in solidarity leading to the show being taken off air.

Lineker hasn't made comment since being taken off air by the BBC but colleagues Shearer and Wright returned to punditry duties on Premier League TV for Arsenal's clash with Fulham on Monday morning (NZ time).