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Match of the Day review: Lineker’s return restores charm and calm

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“Ah,” tweeted Gary Lineker from the Etihad Stadium, an hour before coverage began on BBC One of Manchester City v Burnley in the FA Cup quarter-final. “The joys of being allowed to stick to football.” The speed of the modern news cycle means it seems like months since Lineker was suspended by the BBC for criticising government immigration policy, but in fact it was only last weekend when Match of the Day aired as a 20-minute shell of a programme, with no presenters or commentators having been willing to work on it in Lineker’s absence.

In an extraordinary show of solidarity from BBC staff and freelancers, other football shows on television and radio were forced off-air.

By Monday morning, the Beeb had climbed down, sheepishly promising to review its rules on social media impartiality. Lineker’s brief ensuing Twitter thread included a fresh plea for sympathy with refugees; his avatar on the app was quietly changed to a picture of him in front of the George Orwell quote on the wall outside Broadcasting House, the one about liberty being “the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”.

After that comfortable 1-0 win, Lineker enjoyed a normal week online – commenting on Champions League goals, retweeting funny viral clips and recommending podcasts that turned out to be made by his production company – before heading back to work.

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