Gary Lineker returned to presenting Match of the Day on Saturday evening after a row that threatened to topple the BBC chairman and director general.
As the former England international introduced live BBC coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley, pundit Alan Shearer touched on the recent controversy.
“I just need to clear up and wanted to say how upset we were that all the audiences who missed out on last weekend,” Shearer said. “It was a really difficult situation for everyone concerned and through no fault of their own, some really great people in TV and in radio were put in an impossible situation and that wasn’t fair.
“So it’s good to get back to some sort of normality and be talking about football again.”
Lineker responded: “Absolutely, I echo those sentiments.”
Before the show began, Lineker shared a photograph of himself in a BBC studio alongside Alan Shearer and Micah Richards, who boycotted the show last weekend in solidarity, with the caption “Teammates”. He also tweeted one of himself at the stadium with the caption: “Ah the joys of being allowed to stick to football.”
Mark Chapman will host the Match of the Day highlights show later on Saturday.
Lineker, 62, was suspended from the BBC’s flagship football programme last weekend for a tweet comparing the language used about the government’s policy to deal with small boats to 1930s Germany.
His remark drew the ire of Tory politicians, with the prime minister’s press secretary saying it was “not acceptable” and the home secretary deeming it “offensive”.
The BBC subsequently took Lineker off air. A former England striker, Lineker has presented Match of the Day since 1999. He has since become the BBC’s highest-paid presenter.
Throughout the controversy, Lineker received widespread support from colleagues, footballers and fans alike amid what many viewed as a disproportionate response from the BBC.
As the corporation scrambled to look for a replacement host for last weekend’s Match of the Day, the pool of candidates shrunk dramatically. Frontrunners for the role – from athletes-turned-commentators to veteran sports journalists – publicly bowed out of the running in solidarity with Lineker.
The BBC ended up running the show without a host, pundits or commentators.
Lineker’s reinstatement was eventually announced on Monday, when the BBC director general, Tim Davie, apologised for the “difficult period” in sports programming and announced an independent review of the corporation’s social media guidelines.
“Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences,” Davie said. “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 joint statement with Davie, Lineker said he was “glad that we have found a way forward”.
“I support this review and look forward to getting back on air,” he said.
When asked by La Liga TV on Friday how the previous week has been, Lineker responded: “Really quiet! Nothing much going on. You could say it’s been an interesting week but I’m still here, still punching.
“It was interesting and also hugely gratifying. I had an amazing amount of support from my friends and colleagues, which was quite beautiful actually.”
He added: “It was totally disproportionate the whole thing, but we’re OK. It’s resolved, I’m relieved, I’m back to work tomorrow and all is well with the world.”
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