On Friday, the BBC announced Gary would “step back” from his hosting role on the football highlights show until it found an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media.
It came after a row regarding the presenter’s response on Twitter to a Home Office video – in which home secretary Suella Braverman unveiled the government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats – saying the language used was “not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s”.
Reacting to the announcement, Ian posted a tweet, which read: “Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.”
Alan, the former Newcastle striker, later tweeted: “I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night.”
Both were met with a wave of support on Twitter:
It is yet to be announced who will stand in for Gary on Saturday’s Match Of The Day.
Revealing Gary would be stepping back from the programme, a BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC has been in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days. We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines.
“The BBC has decided that he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media.
“When it comes to leading our football and sports coverage, Gary is second to none. We have never said that Gary should be an opinion free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.”
BBC director-general Tim Davie warned staff about their use of social media when he took on the role at the end of 2020, and guidelines around social media use have since been updated.
Staff members at the corporation were told they needed to follow editorial guidelines and editorial oversight in the same way as when doing official BBC content.
However, Gary is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent member of staff, and is not responsible for news or political content.
He previously said he did not fear suspension from the BBC standing by his condemnation of plans to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel, and insisted he would “continue to speak up” on the subject.
His earlier comments faced criticism from members of the Tory party, including the home secretary, while a spokesperson for Rishi Sunak also said: “It’s obviously disappointing to see someone whose salary is funded by hard-working British (licence-fee) payers using that kind of rhetoric and seemingly dismissing their legitimate concerns that they have about small boats crossings and illegal migration.”