Lineker hits back at BBC failure to air World Cup opening ceremony – as he insists it was on iPlayer

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Gary Lineker has hit back at those who criticised the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup opening ceremony.

At the start of the BBC’s broadcast of the opening match between Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday afternoon, TV presenter Lineker addressed the poor human rights record of Qatar in an opening monologue.

The controversial competition kicked off with the host nation facing Ecuador in Group A, with the game shown live on the free-to-air channel. They lost 2-0 after an Enner Valencia double.

Lineker, who recently promised to speak out on the issues while covering the tournament, got straight into the controversy before the pundits on the show went on to discuss the issues further.

But fellow TV presenter Piers Morgan responded angrily on Twitter, posting: ‘Outrageously disrespectful to Qatar that the BBC didn’t broadcast the World Cup opening ceremony, and instead put out more virtue-signalling guff about how awful it is. 

‘If they’re that appalled, they should bring home their vast army of employees & spare us this absurd hypocrisy.’

Football writer Grace Robertson then tweeted: ‘Yeah, BBC just decided to ignore the opening ceremony entirely. Partly just because they were showing the WSL until 5 minutes ago, but they’ve been straight into a basic overview of the Qatar talking points.’

But Lineker responded: ‘Not true. It was shown live in its entirety on @BBCiPlayer, BBC Sport website and red button. The timing of the opening ceremony was changed to an earlier time very recently and WSL was already confirmed on @bbcone. If you wanted to watch it, you could.’ 

BBC’s Gary Lineker addressed the human right’s issues in Qatar in his opening monologue at the start of the organisation’s coverage

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The World Cup got underway on Sunday with host nation Qatar facing Ecuador in Group A

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Controversy around human rights, such as workers’ rights and LGBT laws, has engulfed the build-up to the tournament

Lineker had said: ‘It’s the most controversial World Cup in recent history and a ball hasn’t even been kicked’, he said. ‘Ever since FIFA chose Qatar back in 2010, the smallest nation to host football’s greatest competition has faced some big questions. 

‘From accusations of corruption in the bidding process to the treatment of migrant workers who’ve built the stadiums where many lost their lives. Homosexuality is illegal here and women’s rights are also in the spotlight. Also the decision to switch the tournament from summer to winter. 

‘Against that back drop, 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.’ 

Alan Shearer, Alex Scott and Ashley Williams were working as pundits and also addressed Qatar’s behaviour since being handed the tournament, and Shearer in particular was critical of the awarding.

He said: ‘Every country has its own issues including our own country, and I’m not saying we’re perfect, we’re far from it, but we were there in 2010 and we were as surprised as anyone was. 

Ashley Williams added he felt there were 'zero considerations for the human rights and the workers' rights' from FIFA

Former England forward Alan Shearer laid into FIFA for their awarding of the tournament

Former England forward Alan Shearer (right) laid into FIFA for their awarding of the tournament, while Ashley Williams (left) added he felt there were ‘zero considerations for the human rights and the workers’ rights’ from FIFA

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‘First of all it was announced it was a winter World Cup, air conditioned stadiums, air conditioned fan fests and all that stuff. Three months later it is announced the first game of the World Cup Is moved to today and 11 of those 22 members that had that vote for FIFA have either been sanctioned, fined or banned for life. 

‘Mohammed bin Hammam from Qatar, who was the chairman of the Asian football association has been banned for life, even Sepp Blatter has recently said it was a mistake, so that’s where we are with this World Cup.’ 

Williams then honed in on FIFA, adding: ‘I think when they awarded Qatar the tournament there were zero considerations for the human rights and the workers’ rights and there were no considerations put in place for the building of the stadiums. 

‘It’s been 10 years before we’ve seen any changes in that to improving working conditions and labour laws. The only positive is that this international tension has led to some reform. I think it only becomes sportswashing when we don’t talk about it.’

FIFA president Gianni Infantino gave a staggering speech on Saturday when he once again begged for the focus of the tournament to be on the football, and called the ‘one-sided’ criticism ‘hypocrisy’.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino gave another staggering speech on Saturday, again pleading for the focus to be on the football.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino gave another staggering speech on Saturday, again pleading for the focus to be on the football.

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Alex Scott slammed Infantino for his words and failure to commit to a compensation fund to families who have lost loved ones

Scott slated Infantino for his words, branding the 52-year-old ‘confusing and absolutely bizarre’.

‘I’m trying to understand, you brought a World Cup here and I’m trying to understand about a culture’, she said. ‘I’m trying to understand everything – the whole context of what’s going on and what the FIFA president said yesterday is to me confusing and absolutely bizarre. How you can say ‘today I am a migrant worker’? No you are not and you never will be.

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‘Yes you have moved forward and now there is a minimum wage in this country that happened in the last two years, £1 an hour, £240 a month, your salary is £1.5 million or whatever it is, you will never know what it is like to be a migrant worker and for families now who lose their loved ones just trying to make a living is absolutely bizarre. 

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The opening ceremony at the Al Bayt Stadium took place before kick off on Sunday afternoon

‘And for FIFA to be awarding clubs compensation of over £200million to allow their players to be playing here is absurd because you’re not even committing to a compensation fund for families.’

Several fans have criticised the organisation’s decision to focus on the issues rather than the football straight away, with many labelling Lineker and the station ‘woke’.

‘BBC going full on woke from the off. #worldcup2022qatar leave politics out of football. Hope all the virtue signallers have a lovely afternoon.’ said one user.

‘And the BBC tv woke fest has begun! Lineker was bad enough normally without an agenda to drive his wokeness!’ added another.

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