The BBC is close to capitulating to Gary Lineker today with the star said to be ‘increasingly confident’ any deal to get him back on TV will be ‘to his satisfaction’.
The footballer turned broadcaster, 62, is expected to meet with Director General Tim Davie later with the BBC boss reportedly ready to offer a ‘horrible fudge’ to ensure he presents FA Cup coverage this weekend.
Lineker refused to be drawn on his future as he walked his dog in south-west London yesterday. But last night Sky News reported sources close to Lineker saying they are ‘increasingly confident’ the dispute will be resolved ‘to his satisfaction’ within the next 24 hours.
It marks a huge victory for the former England captain, the BBC’s highest-paid star on £1.35million a year, over the £5.3billion-a-year BBC in the crisis sparked by his anti-Tory tweets.
The row saw Match of the Day and Match of the Day 2 cut down to short shows without presenters, pundits, commentators or its famous theme tune. On-screen talent including former England strikers Alan Shearer and Ian Wright refused to appear in ‘solidarity’ with Lineker. There was even a pro-Lineker protest outside the BBC in Salford.
Lineker 1 – BBC 0: Gary, pictured walking his dog in south-west London yesterday, is said to be ‘increasingly confident’ of a deal to his ‘satisfaction’ being offered by the BBC to get him back on TV
BBC director-general Tim Davie, pictured here in an interview with Nomia Iqbal yesterda, has denied he will resign over the row. The Prime Minister refused to give him his confidence yesterday
In order to end the row, the BBC is expected to be forced into launching a review of its guidelines on impartiality for freelance presenters such as Lineker, 62.
‘Ambiguities’ in the presenter’s contract mean the corporation fears it cannot force him to follow its rules, which prohibit staff members from making political comments. Lawyers are said to have advised the BBC could not sack him without a multi-million pound pay-off.
Tim Davie’s own future could be in doubt after he has been criticised for his handling of the affair. Rishi Sunak would not be drawn on whether he retains confidence in him or BBC chairman Richard Sharp.
The BBC is currently due to broadcast two of the four FA Cup fixtures this weekend, including the much-anticipated tie between Premier League side Brighton and giant-killing minnows Grimsby Town, but disruption to its football coverage since Friday has thrown this into doubt.
Mr Lineker is due to present one of those shows – not the Match of the Day highlights programme this weekend, according to reports.
And in a sign of a thaw in the dispute, a BBC spokesman said: ‘We are working hard on a resolution and hope to have him back with us as soon as possible.’
A BBC source told the Telegraph things are ‘moving quickly’, adding: ‘Tim Davie has been clear that he wants to resolve the situation and see the MOTD presenter back on air.
‘Gary and his representatives have been in talks for a number of days and these are ongoing.’
Protestors gather outside the BBC’s main sports studio in Salford to show support for Gary Lineker
Match of the Day on Saturday was cut to just 20 minutes in length as presenters, staff and commentators refused to come to work in support for Lineker
Lineker was spotted in public for the first time yesterday after Match of the Day aired without him the previous night
Lineker, 62, was taken off air by bosses at the organisation on Friday after he criticised the Government’s anti-illegal immigration bill, sparking a walkout by colleagues.
Lineker may make some form of apology and is said to have agreed to be more careful about his tweets in future amid ‘a horrible review fudge’ of its social media guidelines, The Times reports.
It comes after BBC boss Tim Davie flew back from the US yesterday in an attempt to defuse a row which hit the corporation’s sports coverage this weekend.
There ‘are hopes of a resolution soon, but not all issues are “fully resolved” at this stage’, BBC news said.
A source added: ‘Both sides have been working on something that will satisfy the BBC’s concerns and allow Gary back on air. Things are going in the right direction.’
Senior bosses at the BBC are said to fear they cannot sack the former England striker, nor force him to follow a social media policy, due to ambiguities in his contract.
Instead, senior officials believe they would be forced to pay millions if they were to sack Lineker and are likely to lose any legal claim he could subsequently bring, The Independent reports.
Lineker is said to be on a 24-month contract negotiated prior to Davie’s arrival.
And despite Davie repeatedly emphasising the importance of impartiality, Lineker’s contract was not updated.
Meanwhile, presenters, pundits and commentators have refused to appear in an act of solidarity, with Match of the Day 2 last night airing without a presenter and lasting only 14 minutes. An apology was made to viewers prior to the show.
A continuity announcer said: ‘Now on BBC One, sorry we’re not able to show our normal Match Of The Day 2 including commentary tonight, but here’s the best action from today’s Premier League matches.’
Colleagues, including Mark Chapman (pictured), have refused to take part in Match of the Day and MOTD2 following Lineker’s suspension
It comes after Match of the Day and Radio 5 Live’s Fighting Talk were also severely curtailed on Saturday.
Sources told Sky News that Lineker is increasingly confident the row will be resolved ‘to his satisfaction’ within the next 24 hours.
The presenter has refused to apologise for his comments, but was uncharacteristically tight lipped this morning, telling reports he ‘can’t say anything’ about the situation that has threatened to engulf the BBC.
Last night its director-general Davie apologised to viewers for the impact it has had on scheduled programming, but denied he would resign and added he wanted to get Lineker back on air as soon as possible. He is understood to have returned to base at Broadcasting House yesterday.
Davie had been in Washington DC, in the United States, when the row kicked off towards the end of last week, and is thought to have come back for crisis talks with one of his highest paid employees.
On Friday night he said: ‘We are working very hard to resolve the situation and make sure we get output back on air.
‘I don’t want to go into too much details about the discussion. Gary Lineker is a superb broadcaster, the best in the business, that’s not in debate. He is an outstanding broadcaster and success for me is Gary gets back on air.’
On Sunday, Lineker refused to answer questions from journalists and photographers outside his home in south west London, s the row over comments he made about the Government’s anti-illegal immigration bill, continues to swirl.
His appearance comes after he was take off presenting duties for last night’s MOTD, with the show being severely curtailed to 20 minutes, with no analysis or commentary as pundits and play-by-play announcers refused to appear in solidarity with him.
Uncertainty over the show grew yesterday after main presenter Mark Chapman was absent from his BBC radio duties and Jermain Defoe announced he had pulled out of appearing as a pundit on the highlights show.
Defoe tweeted: ‘It’s always such a privilege to work with BBC MOTD. But tomorrow I have taken the decision to stand down from my punditry duties.’
Commentators for the show have also walked out, with veteran mic-man Guy Mowbray tweeting: ‘As yesterday, there will be no “normal” MOTD(2) programme tonight. The scheduled commentary team are in full agreement with our BBC Sport colleagues. We hope that a resolution can be found ASAP.’
The Women’s Super League match was broadcast as scheduled on BBC1, but there was no pre-match or half-time coverage, and the commentary was taken from the WSL’s world feed rather than using the Beeb’s in-house audio team.
However, there was no such disruption during the channel’s coverage of the Six Nations, with Gabby Logan anchoring yesterday’s match between Scotland and Ireland as scheduled.
Before match commentary from its two scheduled Premier League games this afternoon started on Radio 5 Live, commentator Alistair Bruce-Ball said: ‘I want to reiterate what we said ahead of our football coverage yesterday.
‘I know you’ll all appreciate this is a difficult time for BBC Sport and for all those who work in the department, and we hope it all gets resolved as soon as possible.
‘It’s been a very difficult decision to make personally, I can assure you it’s not been taken lightly, but I’m a BBC staff member, I’m a radio commentator for this station and, just like yesterday, we are here to provide our football service to you, our audience.’
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