Chelsea hero Nevin explains refusing to join in BBC Lineker boycott

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Chelsea icon Pat Nevin has explained why he opted to appear on BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday after Gary Lineker was axed from the broadcaster and a subsequent boycott ensued. The Beeb’s sport coverage over the weekend was hit as many pundits and commentators joined Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, who led the boycott by not appearing on Match of the Day on Saturday.

The football highlights show was limited to just 20 minutes and aired without any punditry or commentary, while Football Focus and Final Score were cancelled and limited radio coverage was played. Staff worker Ian Dennis received abuse for breaking the boycott and providing radio commentary for Leeds’ 2-2 draw with Brighton, while Nevin appeared on Radio 5 Live on Sunday for Newcastle’s 2-1 win over Wolves and explained his reasons for getting behind the microphone.

“Freedom of speech means you get to speak,” Nevin said. “That’s why I went on Stephen Nolan last night, World Service this morning. I don’t engage in social media so this is the platform we have to start speaking on and get through this.

“There’s a dichotomy between free speech for us and due impartiality of the BBC, we know that. It’s where you draw the lines, and that line’s been far too blurred for the staff and the public.

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“We need clarification, contracts must be clearer, it’s unfair on everyone – from Gary Lineker to every match reporter. There must be a debate, there must be consultation, not just edicts from on high. It’s madness that I can be asked to go on a BBC political programme, yet I’m not allowed to have an opinion out with that. It doesn’t make sense.”

The BBC and Lineker reached an agreement for the former England striker to return to programming next weekend as he is set to present their FA Cup coverage, while director general Tim Davie confirmed plans for an independent review of the broadcaster’s social media guidance.

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While Nevin explained that he holds a similar stance to Lineker, the pundit outlined that the future of the BBC could depend on the fallout from the affair. “I happen to stand on roughly the same hill as Gary Lineker,” Nevin added.

“But we have to understand that if we have stringent opinions and other alternative – and indeed opposite – opinions, they would have to be allowed.

“That is not easy for an impartial organisation like the BBC to cope with. I’m going to talk about this for a long time to come, we’ve got to debate it – the future and direction of this organisation, possibly under threat institution, could depend on this. It’s about getting on and getting it right from hereon in.”

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