Gary Lineker says ‘great to be here’ as he returns to air after BBC impartiality row

Gary Lineker said it was “great to be here” as he returned to television screens on Saturday evening after the BBC row that last week saw its flagship football programme aired without presenters and pundits.

Lineker was suspended from Match of the Day last weekend following his tweets on the UK government’s immigration policy, in which he compared the language used with that of 1930s Germany.

Fellow pundits, including his co-hosts Alan Shearer and Ian Wright, followed him in opting against appearing on screen in solidarity before a resolution was found during the week, leading to Lineker and his team being reinstated for Manchester City’s FA Cup clash with Burnley.

A prerecorded introduction saw Lineker’s first words highlight Vincent Kompany’s return to the Etihad Stadium, now as head coach of the visitors, before Lineker – seemingly struggling with a slight lack of voice – handed over to Shearer in the studio.

Shearer then spoke of the situation faced by fellow broadcasters and commentators last week.

“I just need to clear up and wanted to say how upset we were [to] all the audiences who missed out on last weekend.

“It was a really difficult situation for everyone concerned – and through no fault of their own, some really great people in TV and in radio were put in an impossible situation and that wasn’t fair.

“So it’s good to get back to some sort of normality and be talking about football again.”

“Absolutely, [I] echo [those] sentiments,” added Lineker.

The duo would usually spend this evening on the couch in the MOTD studios, occasionally alongside Micah Richards who was in attendance with them at the Man City vs Burnley game.

But that duty will tonight fall to Mark Chapman, another of the BBC’s regular presenters.

Lineker earlier said it was “great to be here” as he returned to air. Minutes before the FA Cup clash started, he posted a photo of himself at the Etihad Stadium and told his Twitter followers: “Ah the joys of being allowed to stick to football.”

The BBC’s director general, Tim Davie, apologised last week for the “difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences”.

However, Mr Davie denied the move represented a climbdown. He defended his actions saying that he did “the right thing” in asking Lineker to step back that Lineker will “abide by the editorial guidelines” until an independent review of the BBC’s social media policy is completed.