Gary Lineker’s original tweet wasn’t even a political statement, but the BBC made it so and showed we shouldn’t separate that and football…


I WISH Jermaine Jenas had shown a bit of solidarity and taken the weekend off too.

If Liverpool were going to choose a day to be part of a punditry blackout, then this was it. Not everyone downed tools, but there were many with half-hearted ‘will this do?’ performances around the park. Mo Salah’s pen rivalled Charlie Adam’s at Wembley in 2012 in his height and distance, but it was all we deserved.

Liverpool FC – ever the friend of the bottom six.

No commentary this time, though. No punditry. No in-depth analysis. Virgil van Dijk must feel very relieved at that. His performance for the goal followed by his throwing his arms up in frustration at Ibou Konate was Fernandes-eque in its shiteness, which is a worry. Let’s hope he was just getting a bad one out of his system before Wednesday night.

The weekend programme played second fiddle to the real story of the week. That of a former footballer pointing out that a government policy was cruel and harboured back to the days of the worst regime of the last century.

This wasn’t mentioned as a passing remark on a BBC programme or even an official BBC account, but on his own Twitter page — a place where his paymasters have no jurisdiction. He did not wish violence upon anybody. He merely disagreed with those in charge. He has a right to do that.

Of course, Lineker got it wrong. He should have said something about wanting to see striking public sector workers be shot in front of their families then he’d have been fine. Jeremy Clarkson said as much in 2011 and was allowed to continue presenting a BBC flagship show for a further five years.

Pointing out cruelty – bad, calling for public executions – fine. Got that? Good.

The difference between the two is clear. Lineker is painted as a liberal with left-of-centre tendencies while Clarkson appeals to the right wing, no-nonsense, calls-it-as-he-sees-it viewer who rails against anything progressive. Clarkson? The establishment. Lineker? Merely an-ex-footballer with a bleeding heart.

And there are calls that Lineker should stay in his lane and comment on the game alone. ‘Keep politics out of football,’ was the cry when Marcus Rashford took on the government on the issue of childhood food poverty, but that assumes that the immigration issue is purely political in colour. It is not. It is humanitarian.

I can’t persuade you to espouse their cause, but people are prepared to cross unsafe bodies of water because it is a better option than staying in their own war-torn country. Imagine the fear and vulnerability of seeing death as a risk worth taking and then being told that they themselves are to blame for their situation and probably criminal in make-up.

Politics should only come into this at the administrative stage when infrastructures are put in place to process, house and care as they are in France. Saving people’s lives should be the default position here, but the hunt for votes is more expedient in a country becoming more and more right wing.

Gary Lineker pointed out that the Home Secretary’s video where she urged to ‘Stop the Boats’ was ‘beyond awful’ and that her ‘cruel policy’ was voiced in language ‘not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s’. His call was for compassion, not violent revolutionary change.

Yes, but he’s paid by an organisation which prides itself on being impartial. Well, sometimes it is.

The BBC may have appeased the government by choosing to remove Lineker from the airwaves, but they clearly weren’t prepared for the absenteeism it encountered as a result.

And that was tremendous. It made me feel proud of the sport. As each hour passed the programmes fell. Match of the Day (or at least a hosted version), Football Focus and the football on Radio 5 Live were all left off the schedules. As a friend of mine said: “You don’t fuck with the footy.”

Don’t mix football and politics? Well, it seems to me that this is the most successful protest against the government in years. The opposition parties are too tied up fighting for those same votes and seldom stand up for anything other than a populist policy.

The footballing world has no skin in that game so when it votes with its silence, it has nothing to lose. They stayed away because they thought it was the right thing to do and the huge monolith of an organisation that makes up the BBC didn’t see that coming. It gives me hope, frankly.

Don’t mix football and politics? Then why is it that every election comes with an MP bringing out their love of the national team or their local team, usually with an accompanying photo of a scarf or replica shirt. They want to be seen as supporting the things we do even if we can see their heart isn’t in it.

David Cameron couldn’t even remember who he purported to support a while back – Aston Villa or West Ham.

And even yesterday there were odious MPs using the reduced Match of the Day format to bait Lineker, saying that they preferred to just see the goals and watch without ‘expert’ comment. Because football is only about goals, apparently.

Don’t mix football and politics? I’m sorry but it’s impossible. You only have to be at a hearing distance from the away end at Anfield to see otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, we dish it out too. Thatcher songs, ‘Fuck the Tories’… You may not like that it’s come to this, but you cannot deny that it exists.

I’ve always had an issue with Lineker. He once scored against us in an FA Cup final. The bastard. I find that more objectionable than his views on ‘illegal’ immigration. By the same token, I’ve always admired Matt Le Tissier’s football prowess. A gifted player, but one who I always turn off whenever he appears on a screen.

What shines from this whole episode is this: Gary Lineker was lambasted because he was a footballer first and a liberal. The BBC has protected its own interests because it has interests to protect, despite claiming to be objective.

Had he issued a full-throated support of the immigration policy, would he have been on Match of the Day on Saturday? Would that have broken any impartiality rules or does that only go one way?

Anyway, that’s that. Slowly we’ll return to looking at Madrid and hoping that Jermaine Jenas says something nasty about the government the day before he commentates on one of our games.

Given the events of this weekend, it’s the least he can do.

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