The BBC has been forced into making a public apology to English football fans after its Premier League output went into a freefall as several of its presenters and pundits staged a protest over the suspension of former international turned pundit, Gary Lineker.
The suspension of Lineker came after the pundit was deemed to have broken BBC impartiality rules last October after tweeting his views on the Conservative Party accepting donations from Russia.
The broadcaster took the step of suspending Lineker over a politically-charged tweet, but the decision, however, has backfired spectacularly with coverage falling off air as many presenters decided on a walkout while fans immediately switched off leading to a drastic drop.
“The BBC will only be able to bring limited sport programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that. We are sorry for these changes which we recognise will be disappointing for BBC sport fans. We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon,” the broadcaster had said in a statement.
“The BBC has been in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days. We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines.
On Saturday, the BBC’s television and radio output was left in tatters after a string of stars showed their solidarity for Lineker by refusing to work.
As of midday UK time on Saturday, the BBC was planning to show flagship Premier League highlights show Match of the Day without presenters, pundits, and commentators, but insiders increasingly think it could collapse.
The protest also meant Premier League players will not be giving interviews to the BBC match days after they indicated that they wanted to boycott Match of the Day in support of Lineker.
A petition calling for Lineker to be reinstated by the BBC on Saturday afternoon amassed more than 150,000 signatures and was still counting at the time the British broadcaster made the apology.
Following the freefall, the BBC was forced into making the apology with Barbara Slater, BBC’s Director of Sport, apologizing to staff in an email.
“We understand how unsettling this is,” she said.
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