mistake of the day | 

Gary Lineker crisis deepens as John Aldridge compares BBC to Putin’s Russia

BBC facing a huge crisis as its entire football workforce go on strike in support of Gary Lineker

Gary Lineker (James Manning/PA)© James Manning

Kevin PalmerSunday World

John Aldridge has accused the BBC of "being run like Putin's Russia" as the storm surrounding their decision to suspend Gary Lineker threatens to engulf the broadcaster.

Lineker has been withdrawn from BBC screens after comparing the language UK government's latest immigration bill - which may be illegal to enforce - as "not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s" on Twitter.

That message was deemed to breach BBC rules that require staff to abstain from offering political views.

Yet Lineker is a freelance contributor to the BBC and the Sunday World understands that his contract does not require him to follow the guidelines laid out for staff members.

The decision to remove Lineker has sparked a full meltdown at BBC's Broadcasting House in central London, with last night's Match of the Day going ahead without any presenters or in-house commentators after they all pulled out in support of the exiled former England captain.

Moments after the decision on Lineker's suspension was announced, his on-screen allies Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and every realistically available pundit pulled out of Match of the Day in solidarity with their banished colleague.

The show's team of commentators soon got behind the campaign by downing their microphones and when Alex Scott refused to present the BBC's Saturday lunchtime Football Focus show - with an edition of Bargain Hunt replacing the soccer output - the crisis reached dangerous levels of toxicity for a UK state broadcaster.

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The BBC's Football Focus and Final Score shows were cancelled on Saturday after the presenters and pundits all refused to appear.

Meanwhile, BBC Radio 5 Live's sports also output was significantly impacted as Irish broadcaster Colin Murray was among those withdrawing their services.

This is now a crisis that is threatening to bring the BBC to its knees and former Liverpool and Ireland striker John Aldridge suggests the impartiality of the broadcaster is now in doubt after their bowed to pressure from UK government chiefs to remove Lineker.

"We don't live in a country run by someone like Vladimir Putin in Russia, but the BBC look like they have caved into pressure from politicians and done as they are told by getting rid of Lineker," Aldridge told this website.

"People like not always agree with what Gary Lineker or I might say on Twitter, but we are entitled to speak our mind as that is one of the core values of what we all stand for.

"Freedom of speech is a right that has been fought for down the years and the BBC looks like they are no long impartial and are being run by the Tories. That will be massively damaging to them and they need to fix it quickly.

"This story is an encapsulation of everything that is going wrong in Britain at the moment. A corrupt government trying to wriggle out of problems they have created, but they took on the wrong people when they went after football.

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"The Tories took on the people of Liverpool after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 and they were beaten into submission despite spinning a pile of lies about what went on that day.

"Now we have seen football uniting once again to stand behind Lineker and what is right and decent.

"I love Match of the Day. Even in an era where we have so many choices to watch football, that Saturday night show on the BBC and the theme tune is such a big part of all our lives.

"With everything that is going on, I wonder whether the Premier League will look at the BBC and conclude they are not suitable to broadcast their matches. That could be the next stage in this story."

Lineker attended the match between his former club Leicester and Chelsea yesterday as the storm around him continued to build.

Now BBC chiefs are under huge pressure to find a resolution to the crisis, as they could be in breach of the contract they have signed with the Premier League for TV and radio rights if they fail to offer a full service.

Lineker has told friends that he has been asked to apologise for the offending tweet in order to be allowed back on air.

He is refusing to bow to that demand and given the huge firestorm his absence from BBC screens has created, their only solution may be to find a way to get their highest-paid presenter back on their screens quickly.

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