Gary Lineker's gaffes prove he's past his sell-by date

gary lineker's gaffes prove he's past his sell-by date

He’s just another victim of a sports presenter not really saying anything (Picture: Tom Dulat/Getty Images for Premier League)

Gary Lineker made headlines this week after two bad jokes seemed to cause insult – one seemingly taking aim at co-host Frank Lampard’s impending baldness, another a sarcastic jibe at Scotland coach Steve Clarke.

It’s the tone you have come to expect from Lineker by now – dad jokes infused with sarcasm and an air of superiority and arrogance.

Then last night he singled out England captain and record goalscorer Harry Kane for criticism, claiming he ‘barely moved in the first half’, in what felt like a comment made deliberately to garner headlines as the rest of the England team were so clearly no better and Kane himself scored the team’s first goal.

Social media wasn’t happy with Lineker but, then again, social media hasn’t been happy with much of the terrestrial channel’s coverage of this summer’s Euros so far.

It’s a sign of the times that Reform UK are polling ahead of the Tories as many on social media still complain about female pundits on the panel.

But these aren’t the only complaints – viewers cringe as Rio Ferdinand is speaking like a sixth former, using phrases like ‘this is my game and I am him’, Micah Richards cackles at anything, while poor Cesc Fabregas does his best to deliver some kind of tactical analysis among all the other noise.

gary lineker's gaffes prove he's past his sell-by date

Viewers cringe as Rio Ferdinand speaks like a sixth former (Picture: AMA/Getty Images)

This symphony of nonsense is led by Lineker, anchoring the show with dad jokes and sarcasm. But as social media complains, you start to wonder… who is this for?

It feels as though mainstream football media is facing a day of reckoning.

Famously, Lineker is the face of the BBC’s football coverage, the broadcaster’s highest paid employee, the ‘bad boy’ of the channel because he has made some fairly boring complaints about the current government and every now and then wears clothes from lines he’s employed to promote.

Lineker is chastised by right-wing viewers for being a left-wing luvvie, while being dismissed by the left as a centrist Blairite. He doesn’t really appeal to anyone, as he’s bang in the middle yet outside of the venn diagram of interest.

He’s as beige as the walls of a noughties new-build, and worse than that, the industry is leaving him behind.

I can speak on this from a position of experience as someone who has begun working in football media in the last year.

I appear on The Kick Off, a big YouTube football channel, on most of Arsenal’s biggest fan podcasts, as well as the club’s own YouTube channel, and my social media content around football reaches thousands upon thousands of people.

gary lineker's gaffes prove he's past his sell-by date

He’s as beige as the walls of a noughties new-build (Picture: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

It’s important to stress that my playing career never quite got near Lineker’s – I retired at around 14 with not much more than a few rolled ankles, while Lineker played for some of Europe’s biggest teams and won as much as you could win in that time. But in 2024, that isn’t really the point.

Rather than bland ex-players delivering media-trained, middle ground commentary of the game, the internet has allowed football fans to decide exactly what they want. If they want entertainment, comedians and fan content creators are meeting those desires, delivering content that doesn’t pretend to be informed but is engineered to entertain.

I’ve dipped my toes in this, while others have become millionaires. Just look at the likes of Chunkz, True Geordie, IShowSpeed – do they know as much about football as the likes of Lineker? Of course the answer is no. Do their viewers care? Seemingly not.

And if you want more informed analysis, ex players are of course catering to this. But the generation of ex-players below Lineker – your Gary Nevilles, your Jamie Carraghers, your Ian Wrights – they manage to give informed, tactical analysis of the game.

They’ve been smart enough to realise that the BBC is no longer the best platform for this – Wright has his own podcast, while Neville is building a YouTube empire with The Overlap, a channel whose viewing figures compete with that of Match Of The Day, the BBC football show that Lineker routinely hosts.

gary lineker's gaffes prove he's past his sell-by date

IShowSpeed reached 24 million subscribers on YouTube (Picture: Twitter)

So where does this leave Lineker? If people are going elsewhere for both entertainment and information, what is Lineker delivering? What’s the point?

Please don’t mistake this as yet another plea for Gary to be sacked. I don’t mind Gary at all – he seems like a nice enough bloke and I think his politics are decent, if not boring. I think that phrase – decent, if not boring – basically sums him up.

He’s just another victim of a sports presenter not really saying anything but trying to cater to everyone at the same time and, in doing so, seemingly appealing to no one.

Others could learn from this – we have a General Election that will culminate roughly the same time as the football, and while Tory voters turn to Reform UK, Labour voters either hold their nose and apologise as they begrudgingly accept Starmer or look around at other options, Nigel Farage is strangely becoming one of the hottest TikTokers in the UK.

The internet is showing us that we don’t want more bland men aiming for the middle, we want people who deliver something different – and don’t apologise for doing so.

While Lineker tries to attract viewers by doling out (korma level) spicy takes with dead eyes, ultimately no one really cares.

No one is looking at the television – they’re looking at new talent on their phones, instead.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected].

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