Huge rift over Linekergate as management are slammed by staff in confidential poll
- There is a sense of anxiety between BBC Sport staff and their hierarchy
- A quick poll revealed to Sportsmail showed a wide rift in the department
- Results showed that 80% of respondents rated senior management with zero out of five
BBC Sport was divided by an internal war following BBC Sport’s reinstatement Gary Lineker.
Insiders have revealed a “huge rift” in the department, some were outraged at the way the debacle played out and a quick poll seen by Sportsmail revealed an overwhelming disdain for bosses.
In a day of unprecedented fury at the channel’s Salford headquarters, Sportsmail understands that furious staff confronted sporting director Barbara Slater about the way bosses have handled a series of highly awkward meetings about the saga.
In the survey provided to Slater, 80 percent of respondents gave senior management a zero out of five for the way they handled the situation.
There was also open disbelief from Slater when she claimed bosses “couldn’t see how it was going to play out” after a multitude of pundits refused to work and brought the network to its knees following Lineker’s suspension.
Criticisms have been leveled at Lineker, with Slater asking if he and other experts are aware of the impact of their actions on employees.
Some questioned why Match of the Day, shown without commentary for over 20 minutes, could not have been presented by someone else. Slater, who apologized for the mess, sparked further anger when she replied, “Because he (Lineker) is the best in the business.”
READ MORE: Ian Wright and Alan Shearer WILL NOT be fined for boycotting Match of the Day in support of Gary Lineker
Some employees are also upset by a perceived inconsistency. Sportsmail understands social media accounts are being closely monitored by BBC officials, with some being reprimanded for even “liking” a political view on Twitter.
And there is frustration that it has been made clear to Slater that this was a mess of the BBC’s own making, along with skepticism that a review promised by Director General Tim Davie will be effective.
Anger at a lack of leadership and communication was also voiced, with many staff left in the dark about whether or not the shows would go ahead until the last minute. Slater, who wanted the meetings to remain confidential, added she had “nothing but regrets” about the events.
Davie suspended Lineker after comparing government language about asylum seekers to Germany in the 1930s. That sparked a boycott by top names like Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Mark Chapman.
Radio 5 Live programming has also been cancelled, including the 606 telephone inputs and preparation for Saturday and Sunday matches.
Commentators Ian Dennis, Alistair Bruce-Ball and John Murray covered games for 5 Live in intense pressure circumstances. They have been subjected to online abuse, with some branding them “scabs”.
On Monday, Davie apologized to those affected and announced a review of social media guidelines. Lineker will be back in Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final between Burnley and Manchester City.
“Everyone knows this has been a difficult time for staff, contributors, presenters and most importantly, our audience,” Davie said. ‘I apologize for that.’
Lineker tweeted, “After a surreal few days I’m glad we found a way through this.
“I would like to thank you all for the incredible support, especially my colleagues at BBC Sport for the remarkable show of solidarity.
“Football is a team game but their support was overwhelming.”
Chapman told the Monday Night Club on 5 Live: “This weekend has been miserable and difficult for everyone involved.
“It’s ironic that we’ve all taken sides in an impartiality dispute and I think everyone involved needs to learn from that.”
His colleague, Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton, added: “I’m glad the situation has been resolved.”
The BBC has received widespread criticism for its handling of the situation, including from broadcaster Piers Morgan and Sportsmail’s Simon Jordan.
Morgan felt the organization had handled the situation poorly, saying talkSPORTS: “It’s less of a debate about impartiality and more of a debate about freedom of expression.
“Gary Lineker is not a BBC employee, he is a freelancer and like many freelancers working for the BBC, he reserves the right to publish his opinions on his Twitter feed.”
While Jordan also said on the radio station: ‘What she [BBC] did, had dealt with it disastrously badly, they didn’t communicate it properly, it looks like it was handed down by the Tories – and it might have been.
“It could well have been a Tory government directive saying ‘we don’t like this’ and some people obviously think that’s the case. I don’t care if that’s the case, but what you need is a BBC operating with clear guidelines.
The people who first joined the BBC boycott in Solidarity with Gary Lineker
The BBC’s football coverage on Saturday was torn up as several more presenters and reporters stepped down in solidarity with Gary Lineker after the Match of the Day presenter resigned on Friday.
Neither Football Focus nor Final Score continued on BBC One, while 5 Live’s radio coverage also saw radical changes throughout the day.
Former England international Alan Scherer And Ian Wright announced on Friday their boycott of this weekend’s Match of the Day programming.
Here are the high-profile presenters and journalists who were the first to attend on Saturday.
The 38-year-old former Arsenal and England player was set to present Football Focus but said on Saturday morning it “just doesn’t feel right to continue the show today”.
Scott has hosted The One Show and has previously co-hosted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year program with Lineker.
She was also a contestant on one of the company’s flagship entertainment shows, Strictly Come Dancing, in 2019.
Following Scott’s announcement, Somers was seen as a potential candidate to step in and present Football Focus but posted her own message on social media to say she would not be working for the BBC on Saturday.
Somers began her career with Bournemouth’s media team before moving to the Premier League.
Since becoming a freelancer, she has worked for numerous channels and has presented BBC coverage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup and covered England at Euro 2020.
Mohammad, 49, has presented Final Score since 2013.
The Welshman joined BBC Cymru Wales in 1997 and has also worked in rugby and snooker coverage, representing Lineker and Mark Chapman on Match of the Day and Match of the Day 2.
The former Manchester United, Coventry and Aston Villa Dublin player is a regular on Football Focus, Match of the Day and Final Score.
He was due to be part of 5 Live’s Premier League coverage on Saturday but said he would not appear in “solidarity” with his colleagues.
Dublin, 53, has built a burgeoning media career in recent years, stretching to a presenting role on the BBC’s property show Homes Under The Hammer.
Like Dublin, former Everton midfielder Osman announced he would not appear in 5 Live’s coverage as planned.
The 41-year-old is a regular pundit on BBC, BT Sport and Sky Sports.
It wasn’t just the BBC’s Premier League coverage that was affected on Saturday, when morning talk show Fighting Talk was replaced by two football podcasts.
Murray, a former Match of the Day 2 host who also works on the station’s music edition, wrote on Twitter that the decision was made “for obvious reasons” and was made by “the entire FT team and myself.”
The first sign the boycott will extend beyond Saturday’s coverage came when former England and Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe said he would not appear in Sunday night’s Match of the Day 2.