BBC cancels Football Focus as chaos over Gary Lineker row continues

The BBC has cancelled Football Focus as the chaos over the decision to stand Gary Lineker down from his Match of the Day presenting duties intensifies.

Saturday night’s flagship highlights show is still slated to go ahead, albeit without a presenter, pundits and several regular commentators after Lineker was told to step back from hosting the BBC show.

Football Focus, meanwhile, had been scheduled to air at midday but the long-running preview show was plunged into chaos itself after lead presenter Alex Scott pulled out.

The former England international, who on Friday confirmed she would not be filling in for Lineker on Match of the Day, wrote on Twitter: ‘I made a decision last night that even though I love my show and we have had an incredible week winning an SJA for football focus that it doesn’t feel right for me to go ahead with the show today.

‘Hopefully I will be back in the chair next week.’

Scott’s fellow presenter Kelly Somers as well as guest pundits Glenn Murray and Anita Asante also informed the BBC they were not prepared to work on the show which was scrapped less than two hours before it was due to go on air, according to Sky News.

Final Score has also been shelved and it remains to be seen whether Match of the Day will go the same way after the Professional Footballers’ Association confirmed it’s members would not be giving interviews.

Former England footballers and MOTD regulars including Alan Shearer and Ian Wright announced on Friday that they would be boycotting the show in solidarity with Lineker.

Several of the show’s commentators also said they would be stepping down from Saturday’s broadcast.

The BBC said the show would ‘focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry’, saying it understood the position of its presenters.

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Lineker, 62, became embroiled in a row over impartiality after comparing the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany on Twitter.

The broadcaster said it had ‘decided’ Lineker would take a break from presenting the highlights programme until an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media had been reached.

Richard Ayre, former controller of editorial policy at the BBC, said Lineker might have presented his last MOTD.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said: ‘It is an irreconcilable position, I think, between the BBC guidelines and Gary who, perfectly understandably, feels that he has a right as an individual to express his views on any issue, however politically contentious it may be.

‘And the BBC takes a different view because its guidelines lay down particular rules for people who are really high-profile BBC personalities, and I don’t think it’s likely that in the coming days they’re going to be reconciled.’

He added: ‘He’s terrific and it will be very sad if he goes, but frankly the BBC and its reputation is bigger and more important than any individual, even Gary.’

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