THEY thought it was all over . . . it almost is now.
“It” being the BBC’s reputation, respect and very raison d’etre.
Yesterday, following a game of two equally shambolic halves, Gary Lineker emerged victorious.
But the real loser wasn’t the BBC, it was his paymasters. Us, the Great British public.
Did the organisation’s execs, on their six-figure salaries, ever stop, for even a nanosecond, to consider it might be the country’s most hard-up who would suffer most for this absolute shambles?
That when Match Of The Day was concertinaed down to a paltry 20 minutes of bare bones football, it wasn’t them, in their corporate boxes at Old Trafford, who suffered.
It wasn’t those with the luxury of subscription packages or streaming services, those who could watch their favourite team via any other means, who paid the metaphorical price.
It was those scrimping and saving in a cost-of-living crisis.
Those who regard MoTD as a beacon of escapism at the end of another gruelling week.
It was their joy that was truncated to 20 miserable minutes of non-analytical match action.
For an organisation that prides itself on diversity and representation, imagine being blind and tuning into a programme of crowd noises.
To paraphrase former Beeb correspondent Jon Sopel, that the Bank of England took less time to deal with the complexity of finding a buyer for Silicon Valley Bank UK — one involving billions of pounds and affecting thousands of investors — than it has for the BBC to not smack Gary’s bottom, says all we need to know about the state of it.
Over the past six months we’ve had train and Tube drivers striking, teachers striking, nurses and junior doctors, striking, ambulance drivers striking, barristers striking, the Royal Mail striking, refuse workers striking, civil servants striking and university staff striking.
On Saturday, Match Of The Day joined their ranks. What a world.
And all because a man who once played football really well sent out a couple of misguided Tweets.
Gary has long been vociferous about the plight of migrants.
A man who puts his morals where his mouth is, he has also actively taken in refugees.
To declare my own impartiality here, I had a giant crush on Gary aged ten, and have enjoyed a few boozy lunches with him as a grown-up.
Crush now gone.
Yes, Gary used silly, inflammatory, supremely unhelpful language.
But this is a man actively encouraged by the BBC to criticise the human rights record of Qatar in December.
Yet when it came to questioning the current human rights record of his own country, uproar and a visit to the MoTD subs’ bench beckoned.
The hypocrisy and double standards are galling.
The BBC’s behaviour has been more W1A than W1A (the satirical BBC2 series about farcical, bureaucracy-loving BBC management).
We don’t want robots for presenters. Personality matters.
I want to know what Gary Lineker, a man who loves salt and vinegar crisps, thinks just as much as I do, say, Prince William, Ant & Dec or, I dunno, Adele.
That is to say, I care very little about what any of them think.
Effectively, we are living in a social media time whereby intelligent people are being silenced in to pacify the dumb.
The BBC does so much brilliantly and gets so much right.
As seen with the major sporting fixtures, the Queen’s death and other events of global scale, the BBC remains the televisual crown in our jewel.
Without realising it, Gary Lineker has just started a revolution — let’s now see where it goes.
Donkey gong in office?
FINALLY, a campaign I can get on board with.
There are calls for real creatures to get recognised with a “Best Animal Performance” category at Hollywood awards ceremonies.
It follows the success of Irish hit The Banshees Of Inisherin, which was nominated for nine gongs, and stars scene-stealing donkey Jenny (ably assisted by stunt-double donkey Rosie).
In 2012 I was sent to Los Angeles to “interview” Uggie, the Jack Russell who won the Palm Dog Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
Uggie’s exploits made black and white silent movie The Artist a genuinely brilliant, heart-warming film.
My useless, rent-dodging dog Dora can barely “sit” on command. Last night she did a poo indoors, because it was raining.
These silver-screen animals are the cream of the creature crop. The one per cent.
Just like their human counterparts, they spend hours and hours honing their craft, perfecting their non-verbal intonations and not wrapping until they’ve nailed (hoofed) their scene.
Unlike their human counterparts, they don’t demand millions, a motorised trailer, and a blue M&M-filled rider.
A few bones, some tepid water and a couple of non-organic carrots and these geniuses of loyalty are good to go.
Give them a gong.
Oscars snub is a shame for Ukraine
There’s nothing more touching than seeing an actress earning £12million a movie “standing with” war-torn Ukraine.
Or seeing an actor sweeping down the red carpet in his £8,000 Tom Ford suit, pausing to upload a photo on Twitter, his biog proudly displaying a little yellow and blue flag.
Now that’s solidarity.
Just a shame, then, that for the second year running the Academy Awards panel refused to let Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky make a virtual speech on Sunday night.
At a time when middle America is getting compassion fatigue, this would have been the perfect reminder of why we cannot abandon Ukraine now.
But hey, the Oscars have bigger fish to fry.
After all, those self-congratulatory champagne glasses aren’t going to refill themselves.
No clue what people want
GRANTED, my favourite movies are Speed, The Fugitive and Notting Hill. (with honourable mentions to Paddington 2, Free Willy and Richard Curtis’s About Time).
So perhaps it’s little surprise this year’s big Oscars winner, Everything Everywhere All At Once, left me utterly cold.
So much so, I pluckily ploughed through the first 60 minutes of this surrealist, 2hr 20min borefest before giving up on account of wanting to claw some of my life back.
Maybe I’m just a cultural heathen.
Or, maybe, just maybe, the Academy Awards has become so far up its own self-important backside, it has lost sight of what people actually want to watch.
Rishi’s in the swim
RISHI’S new heated swimming pool uses so much energy, the local electricity network had to be upgraded to meet its power demands.
What a sentence.
According to The Guardian – not our multi-millionaire PM’s natural bedfellow – extra equipment was recently installed in North Yorkshire to cope with the demands of his constituency home.
Now, initially I tried to get really cross about this.
But, well, we know our Prime Minister, a former banker, is married to a billionaire heiress and is supremely rich in his own right.
Unlike his predecessor Boris Johnson, who has now earned almost £5million out of office, Rishi isn’t in the job for the money.
Or the ego. (He is also covering all costs on said pool).
Sure, Rishi will never have to choose between heating and eating. Or bath and shower. (Pool or jacuzzi maybe).
But he’s an economist. He has empathy. And his focus, purely, is to get us out of this mess.
Rishi being able to butterfly at 85F is the least of our worries.
Yes, fat chance
APRIL Fool’s Day is still two weeks off.
Yet here we are being told not to use phrases such as “wolfing down”, “eating like a horse” or “pigging out” in case it upsets the overweight.
The phrase “war on obesity” is also out because it makes fatties feel like the enemy, the British Dietetic Association suggests. (The BDA, it should be noted, didn’t use the term “fatties” either).
Instead our bigger-boned chums should be referred to as “individuals with higher weight”, and it is dehumanising to compare them to animals.
Unless I’m going mad, though, horses mainly subsist on grass, hay and the odd Polo mint.
There wouldn’t be a single fat person in Britain if this is what we actually ate.
Just a thought.
EVERY now and then a new law is passed and you wonder how the hell it didn’t happen 50 years prior.
Such is the case with last week’s transformational Government announcement that every schoolgirl in Great Britain will get the same footballing opportunities as the boys.
Until now, only 41 per cent of secondary schools offer football equally to girls in PE lessons.
This is a triumph for the legacy of the Lionessess, who petitioned for the change off the back of their stunning Euros win.
Forget zig-a-zig-ah, this is real girl power.
DOES anyone else simply not give a toss whether Meghan and Harry attend the Coronation?
Doubtless, come May, it’ll be lovely to see King Charlie adorn his snazzy little crown.
But, given everything they’ve put their family – and the nation – through, do the monarch’s second born and his wife really deserve
ANY more air time?
Let them watch from the comfort of their £11million Montecito mansion and – ideal for two such grandiose eco-warriors – save their air miles. Win win.