Gary Lineker has more time to spend eating crisps in his bedroom
The Gammons rejoice! Stop the clocks! Put down the telephone to GB News! Prevent the American Pitbull from attacking the postman! You have won: Gary Lineker, chief woketeer, defender of asylum seekers (he even put one of them lot up in his gaff you know), and generally man with a bleeding heart conscience has been banished from our TV screens. Temporarily at least.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that I have had more breaking news alerts relating to this story than any other, ever. The Turkey-Syria earthquake? Hardly anything compared to the big news story of 2023. Who knew we all gave a toss so much?
Lineker is certainly a man who divides opinion. Someone for the liberal luvvies to get behind. You know the types, folk who would probably chain themselves to trees in order to stop HS2 (though I suspect it’s the lack of cash that will do that). They’re also the ones who believe in equality for all, but wouldn’t think twice of spunking £10.99 on avocado on toast from an upmarket Hampstead eatery. Or gluing themselves to the M25 just after yer Nan has had a heart attack and it en-route to A & E.
As you might be able to tell, this piece will be full of impartiality. That’s right: I hate everyone.
Though you could be forgiven for my having a great deal of sympathy with Lineker, simply because he has to sit opposite Alan Shearer once a week. If he’s off, it’s Danny Murphy - the man who reminds us that even a gubbed clock is right twice a day. Sometimes it does feel that playing footsie with a meat grinder would be preferable than having to put up with the mundane nonsense he has to wade through.
He will however be no doubt heartened by the reaction of his colleagues, both in TV and radio. First it was Ian Wright, who in solidarity said he didn’t quite fancy chatting to the B team about the action from Saturday. Then, because there’s no show without Punch, Alan Shearer said he too was pulling out. Then, in a statement that no one asked for or had been wondering about, Jermaine Jenas announced that although he wasn’t booked for MOTD that night he would not have taken part.
Well, if that’s the case, I’d like to announce that I shall not be attending the coronation of King Charles in May, as sadly there are no cheap Lumo train tickets left down London that bank holiday. Probably the asylum seekers who’ve hoovered them up. Also, even though I wasn’t invited to the Oscars, I wouldn’t have gone anyway because I wasn’t nominated.
Which brings us to an uncomfortable truth. Would anyone actually miss what is a very costly outlay for the BBC? Lineker has been paid countless millions by the BBC for his work over the years.
He actually probably would be a big miss, but would some of the pundits, who because they are so marinated in arrogance from their years of playing football professionally, believe the requirement to do research doesn’t apply to them? In fairness, Alan Shearer is actually half decent - and I’d better make this point quickly as my keyboard has suddenly caught fire - but I certainly wouldn’t miss Jenas. Is he really the best we have to offer? Getting him to provide expert analysis is in my view like asking Neil Buchanan from Art Attack to paint the Sistene chapel.
Of course, this all boils down to a piece of mismanagement by the BBC so large, if it crashed into earth it would probably cause a mass extinction event. The way I see it is this: Gary Lineker is being held to a set of rules which, as far as I can see, don’t really exist. Certainly not explicitly enough. He is a freelance sports presenter. He is not a staff newsreader, journalist or a current affairs documentary maker. Those people should be impartial, but Lineker is not beholden to those rules. And because the BBC have not had clarity on their starting position, they cannot enforce something in an arbitrary way.
Clearly, the corporation needs to revamp its editorial guidelines. If you don’t know what they are, it’s basically a weighty green book issued to employees with information as to how they should consider a myriad of issues when making programmes. Sadly at the moment, all I can see it is good for is the beating to death of people who hang signs saying “The BBC is the Virus” from motorway bridges.
Let’s not forget the BBC is of course embroiled in an uncomfortable situation with Richard Sharp, its chair who also rather inadvisedly... advised on and/or facilitated Boris Johnson a loan, but neglected to mention it during the recruitment process for his position. Silly boy, Richard. Therefore it significantly weakens the BBC’s position as there are entirely legitimate questions around political interference. Why have they taken this view, and chosen to do it now when Lineker has been at it for years? Making it all the more obvious they should have set some - what is the phrase? - ah, yes ground rules with Lineker.
The funny thing is, if they had just said fair enough, you’re not part of news or current affairs and therefore it doesn’t apply to you, it would have blown over in a day.
The wider media do have questions to answer on this. Over many years, the views of Lineker, as a prolific tweeter, has been reprinted time and time again.
In the 2015 book Bendelow and Kidd’s Dictionary of football, which you can no longer buy from here, under the entry “Taking to Twitter” it states “The go-to medium to garner footballer’s opinions on a range of subjects. Nicholas Anelka might inform his followers as to why he is leaving his latest club, Joey Barton will tweet to comment on the fruity tackle he’s just seen live on TV and Gary Lineker might express his 140-character thoughts on the latest developments in the Syrian crisis.”
So you see, we’ve created a monster, however this was a monster we knew existed and was steaming through our towns and cities like bloody Godzilla; he’s been encouraged by the clamour for his opinion, the thirst for some Linekerese. Lazy journalists up and down the country when posed with having to apply brain power to some copy simply think “f*ck it, let’s just put what that crisp muncher thinks.”
Well, actually the real monster that has been created is Matt Le Tissier. Like a dog backed into a corner, he’s coming out with ever-more ridiculous comments, the sort of which might make David Icke think “steady on.” And here he was, turning up on GB News like a ghost at the feast whinging about how he didn’t get the backing of Ian Wright when he was ditched from Sky Sports News, despite it clearly being because Le Tissier was, and is, as mad as a shit house rat. Also Matt, Wrighty thinks you’re a gold-plated helmet.
GB News however were not to be outdone... by themselves, and in an act of editorial diarrhoea, elected to run their very own Match of the Day alternative. If you had labelled it satire and put Armando Iannuci’s name at the beginning, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was the successor to The Thick of It. In essence, it was exactly what you think it might be.
During one glorious exchange during Saturday’s match at Elland Road some bloke called Patrick who you’ll never have heard of and won’t ever think of again said that Lineker would probably like Brighton because it’s “full of rainbow flags and woke people.” Presenter Mark Dolan replied “I think that’s a fair point. The tofu eating.... wokerati.” Now if you don’t know who Dolan is, he’s a former (former being the operative word here) comedian who has rocked up on GB News for some reason. It seems from his work that he is to razor sharp comedy as salt is to a snail.
In summary, my advice to all you GB Newsers out there is to put on your best Union Flag suit. Pour a double into your Nigel Farage mug. Grease your bodies up with the tears of failed asylum seeker claims, and enjoy it. Because he’ll be back next week.
And all those liberal bleeding heart lefties mourning the removal of the freest of voices on the BBC? Cry more. Ratio. Or whatever kids say these days.