Gary Lineker brushed off the scandal surrounding his controversial migrant tweets as he spent the evening partying with celebrities at the launch of a new private members’ club.
The Match Of The Day presenter, 62, recently plunged the BBC into a civil war between talent and management over whether bosses were right to apologise to the Match of the Day star for taking him off the air over his Nazi slur.
Yet amid the civil war said to be occurring in the BBC, Lineker looked in high spirits as he quaffed glasses of whisky at Apollo’s Muse in Mayfair alongside the likes of Paloma Faith and Mary Charteris.
Lineker danced the night away surrounded by 2,000-year-old Greek and Roman antiquities, whilst enjoying a delicious drinks menu including Héloïse-Lloris Champagne – the only Champagne in the world finished in a 24k Gold casing.
The guests also took advantage of a curated cocktail list at the swanky party.
No troubles here: Gary Lineker brushed off the scandal surrounding his migrant tweets as he spent Thursday at the launch of a new private members’ club Apollo’s Muse in Mayfair
Two’s company: Lineker looked in high spirits as he quaffed glasses of whisky at Apollo’s Muse in Mayfair alongside the likes of Paloma Faith (pictured) and Mary Charteris
Amongst a backdrop of antique statues and magnificent floor-to-ceiling marble, Lineker was treated to canapes including truffle and taleggio crocchettes, guilty wagyu burgers, tuna tartare, spicy ’nduja beef tartare and crab salad.
The former footballer was no doubt keen to let his hair down after being caught in a political firestorm in recent weeks.
Lineker sparked mutinous chaos at the BBC last week when he was asked to step back from presenting Match of the Day after backlash over a tweet comparing the Government’s migrant crackdown to Nazi Germany.
His agent has since claimed that he had an ‘special agreement’ with BBC director general Tim Davie to tweet about migrants and immigration.
But Jon Holmes, who has worked with Lineker for more than 40 years, said Lineker had a ‘passionate interest’ in the subject and believed he had permission to tweet about the issue.
He also revealed how he was called into Broadcasting House, the BBC’s headquarters in central London, on Friday as part of efforts to resolve the situation.
Mr Holmes, also the former chairman of Leicester City, told New Statesman: ‘Gary takes a passionate interest in refugees and, as he saw it, had a special agreement with Tim Davie, the BBC’s director general, to tweet about these issues.’
He added: ‘But when they asked me how the matter could be resolved, I told them taking Gary off the air would not be helpful and we needed to clarify the guidelines.’
Loving life: Paloma looked radiant in a ballerina-inspired ensemble as she posed up a storm inside the glamorous venue, which will open in April
Radiant: Lady Mary Charteris cut an effortlessly stylish figure in a black velvet blazer layered over a Bowie T-shirt, skinny jeans and knee high boots
Two’s company: Mathias Le Fevre and Ciinderella Balthazar posed for snaps together inside
The agent said he resisted saying ‘I told you so’ after the BBC’s football coverage was hit by fellow presenters and pundits walking out in solidarity with Lineker.
Mr Holmes continued: ‘In my view, the BBC did not have to put itself in that position and publish its statement.
‘It’s best not to feed the beast. You starve it – that’s how you achieve a quick resolution to problems like these.’
Lineker will return to TV screens to present live coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley on Saturday.
Mr Davie said he had taken ‘proportionate action’ over the controversial tweet and insisted he had not backed down in the row, but he has been accused of ‘capitulating’ to the former footballer.
It is understood Mr Davie and the chief content officer Charlotte Moore headed up to BBC Sport’s Media City offices in Salford, Manchester, on Tuesday to address the controversy with staff directly.
But with teams gathered both in person and over video link, staff are said to have not been on side with Lineker.
An insider told The Telegraph numerous people spoke out against Lineker in the meeting.
They said: ‘There was a sliding scale of anger among the rank and file between BBC management and Lineker. Someone even said that multi-millionaire presenters are now drawing the picket lines and expecting everyone else to join in.
‘One person pointed out that Gary had breached the social media guidelines before and been reprimanded for it, so what did he expect this time.
‘There was a lot of anger directed at the management for the way they have dealt with the crisis. But there was also anger directed at Lineker, not for his political view but because of how it has affected people’s jobs.’
Unfazed by the events of the past week, though, Lineker changed the picture on his Twitter profile to a photoshopped image of himself in front of a George Orwell quotation about freedom of speech earlier this week.
It comes as the BBC has continued to suffer high-profile attacks from those on both sides of the debate.
Ian Wright, who boycotted last Saturday’s MOTD in ‘solidarity with Lineker’, said the corporation had made a ‘hot mess from high up’ and that ‘surely heads have got to roll’.
Yum: Amongst a backdrop of antique statues and magnificent floor-to-ceiling marble, Lineker was treated to canapes including truffle and taleggio crocchettes (pictured: Alexandra Carello and Natalie Salmon)
Historic: Guests danced the night away surrounded by 2,000-year-old Greek and Roman antiquities (pictured: Matthew Blakiston and Peony Lim)
VIP: ‘King of Mayfair’ Richard Caring and wife Patricia looked in good spirits at the launch of their new VIP members’ club
But former BBC chief political correspondent John Sergeant said the corporation could not back down on ‘the commitment to political impartiality’ and that if ‘key freelance presenters’ cannot ‘stick to the rules, their contracts should end’.
Veteran BBC journalist John Simpson also accused Lineker of helping to create the mess that the corporation has found itself in.
The 78-year-old war correspondent said he ‘must have known’ that talking about the Government’s immigration policy was going to be ‘tricky’.
Senior figures at the BBC are said to fear the climbdown will lead to a ‘free for all’ of presenters and reporters testing impartiality rules by expressing their political opinions online while a review into the Corporation’s social media guidelines is conducted.
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