BBC's flagship soccer show boycotted over Gary Lineker impartiality row

Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker leaves his home in London on Thursday.

(CNN)The BBC's weekend soccer coverage has been plunged into chaos following its announcement Gary Lineker would "step back" from presenting, after he became embroiled in an impartiality row when he criticized British government policy on Twitter.

The broadcaster now faces a boycott from pundits, presenters and even players of its flagship soccer show "Match of the Day," while other soccer programs -- Football Focus and Final Score -- and some radio programming have been forced off-air as a result of the furore.
Lineker criticized the government's controversial new asylum-seeker policy on Tuesday and was subsequently relieved of his presenting duties this week since the BBC said his tweets breached their guidelines, specifically its commitment to "due impartiality."
    The BBC's decision has sparked controversy, leaving the organization under fire from opposition politicians, the Broadcasting Entertainment Communications and Theatre Union who represent BBC staff, and its former director general Greg Dyke.
      "The BBC will only be able to bring limited sport programming this weekend and our schedules will be updated to reflect that," a BBC spokesperson said in a statement Saturday.
        "We are sorry for these changes which we recognize will be disappointing for BBC sport fans.
        "We are working hard to resolve the situation and hope to do so soon."
          In addition to Saturday's disruption, the BBC reported that Sunday's coverage, including "Match of the Day 2" and the Women's Super League, would also be reduced.
          In an interview with BBC News on Saturday, the broadcaster's Director General Tim Davie was asked if he should resign over the crisis. He said he would not.
          "I honestly do not believe, despite a lot of the commentary, that this is about left or right," Davie said. The BBC is a "fierce champion of democratic debate, free speech, but with that comes the need to create an impartial organization," he added.
          When asked if he was sorry about the way he handled the situation, he said: "We made decisions, and I made decisions based on a real passion about what the BBC is and it is difficult -- it's this balance between free speech and impartiality."
          On Tuesday, Lineker tweeted "Good heavens, this is beyond awful" to a video posted on Twitter by the British Home Office announcing the new proposed policy -- an attempt to stop migrant boats crossing the English Channel from France which has been criticized by the United Nations and other global bodies.
          He added: "There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I'm out of order?"
          As Britain's public broadcaster, the BBC is bound by "due impartiality" -- a much debated term which the organization defines as holding "power to account with consistency" while not "allowing ourselves to be used to campaign to change public policy."
          On Friday, the BBC announced Lineker would "step back from presenting Match of the Day until we've got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media," adding it considered his recent social media activity to breach its guidelines.
          In response, first pundits, then commentators, and then even Premier League teams announced their intention to boycott the show in support of Lineker.
          BBC commentators Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen and Steven Wyeth said in a joint statement issued late on Friday "in the circumstances, we do not feel it would be appropriate to take part in the programme."
          A shortened version of the program eventually aired on Saturday, opening with a BBC continuity announcer issuing an apology, instead of the usual title sequence and theme tune.
          It then showed highlights from Saturday's English Premier League games with no commentary, only the background audio from the stadiums.
          The show aired for 20 minutes, an hour less than the originally scheduled time.