Lineker back on Match of the Day as BBC reveal social media review
Gary Lineker will return to Match of the Day after the BBC apologised for a "difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters, and most importantly, our audiences".
A host of sports presenters and pundits pulled out of BBC shows at the weekend after the former England striker was told to step back from hosting the show in a row over impartiality.
Lineker, 62, was taken off air for a tweet comparing the language used to launch a new UK government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.
BBC director-general Tim Davie has now confirmed Lineker will continue as the programme's host and announced an independent review of social media guidelines at the corporation, particularly for freelancers.
He said: "Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences. I apologise for this.
"The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC's social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air."
In a short statement, Lineker said: "I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air."
The former Tottenham and Barcelona striker added on Twitter: "After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this.
"I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity.
"Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming.
"I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost three decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world.
"I cannot wait to get back in the Match of the Day chair on Saturday.
"A final thought... however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn't compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away.
"It's heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you. We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you.
"Also, I'd like to thank Tim Davie for his understanding during this difficult period. He has an almost impossible job keeping everybody happy, particularly in the area of impartiality.
"I am delighted that we'll continue to fight the good fight together."
Davie said Lineker "will abide by the editorial guidelines" until a review of the BBC's social media policy is complete.
He added: "We are announcing a review led by an independent expert — reporting to the BBC — on its existing social media guidance, with a particular focus on how it applies to freelancers outside news and current affairs.
"The BBC and myself are aware that Gary is in favour of such a review.
"Shortly, the BBC will announce who will conduct that review. Whilst this work is undertaken, the BBC's current social media guidance remains in place.
"Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary. I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend."
Football coverage on BBC TV and radio shows was hit across the weekend as fellow pundits, presenters and reporters — including Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and Alex Scott — walked out in "solidarity" with Lineker.
Match of the Day aired for only 20 minutes on Saturday without accompanying commentary or analysis from presenters, with Sunday's edition following a similar format and running for a reduced 15 minutes.
The Women's Super League match between Chelsea and Manchester United aired without a pre-match presentation on Sunday and Radio 5 Live replaced live sports coverage with pre-recorded content.
Davie described the BBC's commitment to freedom of expression and to impartiality as a "difficult balancing act".
He said: "The BBC's social media guidance is designed to help manage these sometimes difficult challenges and I am aware there is a need to ensure that the guidance is up to this task.
"It should be clear, proportionate, and appropriate."