Gary Lineker’s long-standing agent and friend, Jon Holmes, has shed new light on what went on behind the scenes between the Match of the Day host and BBC bosses over the weekend.
In a diary for this week’s New Statesman, Holmes revealed that Lineker felt he had a “special agreement” in place with Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, that allowed him to tweet about refugees and immigration, an area of “passionate interest” for the former England footballer.
Apparently, at least as of last Friday, 10 March, Davie didn’t see things this way. Holmes revealed that, as Lineker’s representative, he was summoned to a meeting at Broadcasting House in London at 2.30pm that day. “We didn’t achieve much,” he wrote, “but when they asked me how the matter could be resolved, I told them taking Gary off air would not be helpful and we needed to clarify the guidelines.”
Again, Davie apparently didn’t agree. Shortly after this meeting, the BBC announced Lineker would be suspended from presenting Match of the Day until an agreement on his social media use could be found. As chaos ensued at the BBC – presenters on strike, programmes cancelled – Lineker and Holmes went to see their beloved Leicester City lose 3-1 to Chelsea.
The following day, Holmes held a series of online meetings with BBC bosses. After Davie returned from a trip to the US, Holmes said, an agreement was reached at around 4pm on Sunday (12 March). This time, Davie was finally in agreement with Holmes: Lineker would be reinstated and the BBC’s social media guidelines would be reviewed.
On Monday, after Davie publicly reinstated the Match of the Day presenter, it seemed the “special agreement” might be back on. Lineker tweeted that “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”.
Just in case Lineker’s position wasn’t clear enough, he has also set himself a new Twitter profile picture with a not-so-subtle message to the BBC’s top brass. The photo shows Lineker alongside a quote displayed next to George Orwell’s statue outside Broadcasting House. The Orwell quote? “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Lineker one, BBC nil.