Gary Lineker Admits Regret For Not 'Speaking Up' During Russia World Cup In 2018

Referring to his recent speech in Qatar, Gary added that the BBC had "learned from what we probably felt was a mistake" four years ago.
Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker
David M. Benett via Getty Images

Gary Lineker has expressed his regret for having not “spoken out” during his involvement in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Over the weekend, the Match Of The Day host made headlines when he began the BBC’s broadcast of the Qatar World Cup with a damning speech highlighting many people’s issues with the tournament being held in the country.

These largely stem from Qatar’s track record with human rights, particularly with regard to migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ+ community.

However, in an interview with The Media Show on BBC Radio 4, Gary admits he now feels “uncomfortable” when he thinks back to his time working in Russia four years ago.

“I think we were sportswashed four years ago when we were in Russia,” the former footballer explained, using a term which refers to countries or brands who host or sponsor large-scale sports events to boost their reputation.

“I do look back four years and feel slightly uncomfortable.”

Per BBC News, Gary added that “we didn’t talk perhaps enough about the other issues” going on in Russia at that time, with calls for the country to lose its World Cup bid when it annexed Crimea in 2014.

Referring to his speech in Qatar, he claimed the BBC had “learned from what we probably felt was a mistake” during the Russian World Cup, noting: “I think looking back now in hindsight, we should probably have spoken out more.”

During his introductory speech on Sunday, Gary said: “[Qatar] has faced some big questions.

“From accusations of corruption in the bidding process to the treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums where many lost their lives. Homosexuality is illegal here. Women’s rights and freedom of expression are in the spotlight.

“Against that backdrop, there is a tournament to be played here that will be watched and enjoyed around the world. ‘Stick to football,’ say FIFA. Well, we will, for a couple of minutes at least.”

While Gary received a wave of praise for his remarks, Good Morning Britain anchor Richard Madeley took a different approach during the following day’s broadcast.

He questioned: “Couldn’t you have covered it from here, Gary? You’ve got exactly the same communications, you’ve got the same screens, you’ve got the same earpieces in, it’s instantaneous coverage, it comes via satellite… you don’t have to be there. You do not have to be.

“I think that statement is what’s known as ‘having it both ways’, don’t you?”

Ahead of England’s first World Cup game on Monday, presenter Alex Scott was also praised for sporting a “One Love” solidarity armband during a broadcast, which came shortly after the news that the English team would not be wearing one as previously planned.


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