Former England captain and BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker has quit his column in the Mail on Sunday in protest against Sunday’s Lord Triesman sting.
Lineker believes that the newspaper story had little merit but did serious damage to the bid. “The story itself, the circumstances surrounding it and the actions of the Mail on Sunday in publishing it have undermined the bid to bring the World Cup to England in 2018,” Lineker said.
“I wholeheartedly support the bid, because I believe that hosting the tournament would be brilliant for the country, and I am an official ambassador for it. I have therefore taken the view that I cannot continue as a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.”
Lord Triesman resigned as chairman of the FA and of the 2018 bid team on Sunday, while world governing body FIFA is to investigate the allegations of bribery and match-fixing made by the Labour peer in the secretly taped meeting.
Lineker’s agent, Jon Holmes, was also critical of the paper, saying that he and Lineker had quickly formed the view that Lineker should sever his involvement with the paper.
Holmes said: “The story showed crass judgment. It had dubious journalistic merit, was clearly obtained by entrapment, and was timed to do the maximum damage to the World Cup bid, which Gary and all football fans in this country passionately support. We wanted to make our position clear and to do all we can now to help persuade Fifa that England is the best country to host a great World Cup in 2018.”
Lineker began writing a column for the Mail on Sunday six months ago. It is estimated that he may be giving up as much as £100,000 a year by quitting. The Mail on Sunday is understood to have paid £75,000 for securing the Triesman tapes.
Today, the MoS – under heavy criticism from the Football Supporters’ Association as well as its own readers for carrying the story – defended itself.
“This story concerns very serious allegations of corruption at the highest level of sport, made by the man who was leading the England World Cup bid,” a statement said.
“The public are clearly entitled to know about such allegations, which are quite rightly now the subject of a FIFA investigation. We would also like to make it clear that Melissa Jacobs put details of her relationship with Lord Triesman on the internet, and made her recording of her conversation with him, without the knowledge or involvement of the Mail on Sunday. There is no question of entrapment, the paper was simply reporting events that had already taken place.
“We made it absolutely clear to Gary Lineker that he could express his views about this story in his column with complete freedom. We regret that he turned down this offer. The Mail on Sunday gives its full support to the England 2018 bid, and notes that many commentators believe its chance of success is as strong as ever.”
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