Did the BBC take this devastating echo into account? It can be doubted. An avalanche broke out after the venerable British TV broadcaster had sidelined its most prominent and popular football expert Gary Lineker.
Online, Lineker received a lot of applause for his steadfastness ("I stand by it, of course"). Football clubs, stars from the film, music and art scene showed their solidarity with him. The musician Fatboy Slim, for example, had Lineker's likeness superimposed on the video screen at his concert in Manchester on Friday. "Great respect" he tweeted under a photo of the gig. It was similar within the BBC cosmos.
After Lineker's exit, co-host Ian Wright, also an ex-footballer, initially announced that he would not appear on screen at the weekend. "I've told the BBC I'm not in it. Solidarity,” announced the 59-year-old on Twitter. And the next bang was not long in coming.
England's ex-captain Alan Shearer (52) also withdrew his commitment to be available as a commentator for the BBC this Saturday. "I have informed the BBC that I will not be on MOTD (Linekers Show Match of the Day, the editors) on Saturday night," the former striker shared. The 62-year-old Lineker has presented "Match of the Day" since 1999.
Then the remaining BBC commentators also announced in a joint statement that they would not accompany the six Premier League games on the microphone this Saturday. In addition, Jason Mohammad, who hosts another BBC football show, Final Score, informed the broadcaster that he would not be showing up for work: "The show is very important to me. However, I informed the BBC in the morning that I would not be presenting it in the afternoon."
The conflict between Lineker and the broadcaster escalated after the English football legend tweeted his dissatisfaction with the English government's migration policy.
On Tuesday he criticized the Conservative British government's new asylum law as "beyond terrible". When criticized that he was "out of order," he replied: "This is an immeasurably cruel policy, directed against the most vulnerable people, in a language that is that of Germany in the 1930's, and I'm not entirely out of my mind?"
The British government then sharply criticized Lineker for his statements. "Obviously it's disappointing to see someone whose salary is funded by hard-working British fee-payers choosing such rhetoric," said a spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Lineker, who has around 8.6 million followers on Twitter, has repeatedly criticized the government in the past. The ex-forward is the highest-paid BBC presenter with a base salary of £1.35m (€1.51m). Several Tory MPs had urged the BBC to ditch Lineker during the week. But he confirmed that he would not withdraw from his position.
Background: The British government wants to first detain migrants who enter the country without official permission in accommodation and then expel them to Rwanda or other countries. The right to apply for asylum should be taken away from them. The plans could violate the European Convention on Human Rights. Interior Minister Suella Braverman had spoken of an “invasion” in view of the increasing number of people entering the country via the English Channel.
On Friday evening, the public broadcaster BBC announced that Lineker would have to rest his job until both parties reached an agreement on his use of social media. Lineker's comments on the UK government's migration policy are "a violation of our policies". The broadcaster urged the former England international to "refrain from taking sides on partisan issues or political controversies". There was hardly a front page on Saturday in the English media without the dispute, for many newspapers it was the front page story.
The Premier League has now told the 12 clubs playing today that their players and coaches will not be receiving requests for match-of-the-day interviews this weekend. The BBC let the association know, it said.
In any case, it was questionable whether the broadcaster would have gotten one in front of the microphone. A number of players had already indicated on Friday evening that they would not conduct post-game interviews with the BBC out of solidarity with Lineker. The England players' union also said there had been inquiries from professionals asking if they would have backing if they refused to give the BBC contracted post-match interviews. The union assured this.
The BBC meanwhile let it be known that Match of the Day will be broadcast without a presenter and experts. Instead, “the focus should be on the football games”.