A Tweet from Gary Lineker to the then Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, broke the BBC’s impartiality rules.
The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) ruled that the Tweet in February “did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards on impartiality.”
Liz Truss had called for English teams to boycott the Champions League final in Russia, if they qualified.
To which Lineker responded:
“And her party will hand back their donations from Russian donors?”.
And her party will hand back their donations from Russian donors? https://t.co/1QCzcmAGOF
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 23, 2022
A complaint questioned whether the comment met the corporation’s impartiality guidelines.
The ECU decided to uphold the complaint and said that its findings had been reported “to the management of BBC Sport and discussed with Mr Lineker.”
In its ruling it stated:
“The Guidance on the use of social media sets out the standards expected of all employees, but these vary according to the role of the individual within the Corporation.
“The highest standards of impartiality are required primarily of those who work in journalism, but also apply to some others ‘who nevertheless have an additional responsibility to the BBC because of their profile on the BBC.’”
“Mr Lineker is one of the BBC’s highest profile stars and, although he does not work exclusively for the BBC, is perhaps best known for presenting Match of the Day on BBC One.
“In the ECU’s judgement Mr Lineker, though not involved in BBC journalism, therefore falls into the category of those for whom there is an ‘additional responsibility’ as set out in the Guidance.”
Lineker pointed out to the ECU that his tweet was prompted by an article on football.
“The ECU also acknowledged the suggestion, by the management of BBC Sport, that the framing of Mr Lineker’s comment as a question might have limited the extent to which readers of the tweet would have understood it as a statement of opinion on a politically controversial matter.
“Whatever the mitigating effect of these factors, however, the ECU judged that they could not entirely erase the impression that one of its purposes was to highlight a perceived inconsistency in the Conservative Party’s approach, at a time when relations between the UK and Russia were the subject of significant public debate. For this reason, we found the tweet was in breach of the relevant Guidance and did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards on impartiality.”