‘Embarrassing!’ BBC urged by former top executive to cut ties with Gary Lineker

The BBC has been urged to part ways with Gary Lineker by a former top executive.

Danny Cohen, the BBC’s ex-director of television, said the football pundit is “running rings” around the corporation with his social media posts.

Mr Cohen added that it was “both offensive and embarrassing to see”.

He insisted Match of the Day would be “completely fine” without Lineker at the helm because most people watch it for the Premier League highlights rather than the analysis.

Mr Cohen called on BBC director-general Tim Davie to follow the example set by no-nonsense former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

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Writing for The Telegraph, he said: “No footballing superstar would be allowed to get too big for his boots.

“If there were any signs that a player believed he was bigger than the club, Ferguson would quickly show him the door, even when it came to players of the world-class quality of David Beckham and Roy Keane.

“At the moment, Mr Lineker is behaving as if he is much bigger than his club – the BBC – with the insolent inference that there is nothing that his manager – the director-general – can or will do to stop him.”

Mr Cohen claimed tweets by the former England striker to Tory MPs this week are “insults more suited to the school playground” and a breach of the BBC’s new social media guidelines.

He added: “If the BBC does nothing about it, its management looks ever weaker and ever less in control of the social media output of the people who represent it in the eyes of the public.”

Lineker was among a group of celebrities to sign a letter by campaign coalition Together With Refugees calling for a “fair new plan for refugees”.

The move led to a war of words on social media platform X with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson and former minister Jonathan Gullis, who wrote an angry letter to the Beeb.

Earlier this year, Lineker was at the centre of a BBC impartiality row after criticising the Government’s illegal immigration crackdown.

The furore led to the corporation drawing up new social media guidelines.

Responding to the criticism of Lineker, a BBC spokesperson said: “Like all freelance presenters, Gary is free to contribute to projects for third parties, as long as these do not conflict with his BBC commitments; do not breach guidelines on conflicts of interest; nor bring the BBC into disrepute, and he does so regularly.”

The spokesperson later added: “We aren’t going to comment on individuals or indeed individual tweets.

“While the guidance does allow people to talk about issues that matter to them, it is also clear that individuals should be civil and not call into question anyone’s character.

“We discuss issues that arise with presenters as necessary.”

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