Gary Lineker: How Winston Churchill inspired Match of the Day star’s Brexit stance

Gary Lineker: How Winston Churchill inspired Match of the Day star’s Brexit stance


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The ‘Match of the Day’ host publicly came out in favour of Remain four years ago on Twitter, the day before the EU referendum. Since then, he’s revealed his fears about the outcomes of Brexit a number of times online and in interviews. Last year, he also wrote a letter to Germany newspaper Die Welt to state his “genuine sadness” over the 2016 outcome and that our nations remained “very much on the same side” despite departure from the European bloc. The footballer turned BBC sport pundit admitted that it was actually Winston Churchill who inspired his decision to make his opinion known.

Lineker claimed that the public had misconceptions over his political persuasion and that instead of being a “massive socialist” he was actually the “archetypal floating voter”.

The 59-year-old stated that he typically avoided “getting involved in much politically” and felt that like him a lot of people considered themselves “politically homeless”. 

Despite his aversion, one debate he did pick a side on was the Brexit referendum, when he posted on social media in June 2016 and faced backlash during the contentious debate.

He tweeted: “Personally I believe there are plenty of reasons to Remain, but barely any to leave. Love Europe, love being part of Europe. #Remain.”

Soon after, the online lashing began in retaliation, he urged: “If you vote Leave, then I’ll respect your view, as you should respect mine. The hatred and bitterness is neither helpful nor necessary.”

Lineker revealed that it was Michael Gove’s post-exit UK-EU trade vision that led him to research the pros and cons of leaving the bloc – and his finding served as a call to arms.

During an interview with JOE last year, he said: “I did a lot of reading and started to think ‘Crikey, actually this actually could be quite damaging for the country. It could be a bad thing’.

“That’s when I thought well I’ll come out and say something – I was motivated.”

Lineker felt compelled to make his views known after an experience during Euro 2016 in Paris. 

He continued: “I was walking around and there was this statue of Winston Churchill and I was googling to do [sic] a picture.”

The bronze three-metre effigy of Britain’s wartime Prime Minister was made in 1988 and was based on a photograph of the leader walking beside France’s General Charles de Gaulles after the Allied victory. 

Mr Churchill was the first to call for a “United States of Europe” in the hope that the “European family” would prevent the outbreak of another global conflict.

Lineker said: “He was so really pro-Europe – the combined thing after the war – and I just kind of used that as the theme towards coming out as Remain.

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“Perhaps I shouldn’t have bothered. I wasn’t going to, you know, I was resisting it but in the end I did.”

What Lineker didn’t say, was that while the wartime icon backed a “United States of Europe”, he caveated this by claiming the UK is “with Europe, but not of it” – a quote widely cited by Brexiteers.

Lineker was then quizzed over whether, as a representative of the BBC, he felt it was a breach of the corporation’s social media rules to come out in support for a political campaign. 

He stated: “Well I’m not news and current affairs, those rules only apply to those in current and news affairs.

“Plus I’m a freelancer, I work for BT Sport, I work for all sorts of different things, so they don’t apply to me – I knew that, I’ve always known that, so it’s not [and] it’s never been an issue.”

Things are likely to change in the future, since Lineker signed a new contract that demands all BBC staff to comply with the corporation’s strict social media guidelines

Director General Tim Davie told the Independent: “Gary knows that he has responsibilities to the BBC in terms of his use of social media.”

In addition to the new social media restriction, Lineker also took a £400,000 pay cut – roughly 23 percent of his salary – and will remain on ‘Match of the Day’ for the next five years. 

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