For a program that only needs to be about goals, match of the day now it has become about something else entirely – at least the future of the programme, the BBC and the role of football in politics.
news Gary Lineker’s departure it was fast then Ian Wright and then Alan Shearer announced that they will not be available this Saturday due to solidarity.. The mortar is broken. He had to give something, especially given how politicized the sport had become.
This is a new era and one where the BBC and its flagship football program need to adapt and really think about it.
There is a great irony in the fact that this entire episode may have initially been portrayed as a case of football being used to distract the masses, the way the sport has been repeatedly criticized as political. A story that began with an embarrassing immigration law being used by the Conservative government to move away from a country that was typically and cynically disintegrating turned into a mass debate about a tweet from a football broadcaster. It was remarkable and seemed like just another example of a country losing its perspective… until now.
As with the game lately, its true national role means that it not only reflects society, but also forces the country to re-look at itself – above all, the national broadcaster’s approach to coverage.
Thus, far from being a distraction, play has always been a means of political self-expression.
It’s arguable, if not entirely inevitable, that the instigator of it was Lineker, because Lineker was a publisher eager to solve bigger problems long before Twitter. He helped usher in a new era of broadcasting, and it’s up to him that he’s now more known for it than as one of England’s greatest strikers. This approach was enthusiastically embraced by Wright, one of the greatest proponents of using football for the greater good.
The world in which a modern football player like Marcus Rashford could emerge could be one of the government’s biggest problems.
Still, it’s an area where Match of the Day and other connected programs have a hard time finding their footing.
Of course, there are side discussions to be had over the full text of Lineker’s tweet, whether freelance contractors should be subject to the same guidelines as staff, and discussions about the nature of those guidelines, but these are… side discussions.
It’s about something much bigger now, and it’s the place of the flagship program when it comes to football.
This brand, one of the strongest in the sport, is now blasted with the most parochial approach.
Another irony of this was that as the sport and some of its mainstream broadcasters became politicized, Match of the Day often tried to avoid it.
We are in a new football world where nation-states with bad human rights records use and take over the sport, but are celebrated without any scrutiny.
The problem is, these things can’t go on forever. Finally, a break is required.
That’s what happened here at Lineker and now, by extension, Match of the Day.
A narrow-minded and conciliatory solution that never quite fit and was never based on reality eventually fell apart.
Not for the benefit of the Match of the Day, not for the benefit of the BBC, and certainly not for the benefit of the football fan or casual viewer.
It’s like trying to escape from the truth instead of facing it.
Mordaunt accuses Labor of ‘borrowing from Gary Lineker’s playbook’ in government criticism
That’s where we’re at now with this Lineker story, and it makes the forward facts for Match of the Day – and indeed the entire football output of the BBC – very vague.
The solidarity withdrawal of a figure as influential as Wright will cause more waves.
What will the presenter playing the Match of the Day look like this weekend? How can he argue anything reliably?
will it be pulled?
This also comes down to a trust issue.
This is where the game is in 2023.
It is political in nature and has duly provoked a story that goes beyond football – but most importantly, it can change how we view it.