TV pundit and former-footballer Gary Lineker has denied the BBC had snubbed the Qatar World Cup 2022 opening ceremony on Sunday (November 20) amid criticism that it was a deliberate move due to the ongoing controversies surrounding the host country. BBC One instead aired the Chelsea vs Tottenham match in the Women’s Super League, which finished after the opening ceremony had begun.
When the channel switched to its programme broadcast from Qatar, Lineker, alongside hosts Alex Scott and Alex Shearer discussed the allegations levelled against Qatar, and how it was “the most controversial World Cup in history”. He said: “Ever since FIFA chose Qatar back in 2010, the smallest nation to have hosted football’s greatest competition 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.”
However, the move received criticism from outspoken TV host Piers Morgan, describing it as “outrageously disrespectful”. Taking it to Twitter, he said: “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.”
This invited many others who shared the same thoughts to join in the conversation, with one viewer saying: “When Russia hosted the World Cup in 2018, it had already annexed Crimea and occupied eastern Ukraine. At the time, there was zero criticism of it from the BBC and the opening ceremony was shown in full. Yet the BBC chose today to sanctimoniously lecture to us. Disgraceful.”
Another said: “Yeah, the BBC just decided to ignore the opening ceremony entirely. Partly just because they were showing the WSL for 5 minutes, but they’ve been straight into a basic overview of the Qatar talking points.” Another said that it’s time for people to cancel their TV licence. A viewer said: “I think people should complain to the BBC about what they aired…not to mention cancel the TV licence.”
Why Qatar World Cup opening ceremony wasn’t on BBC One
Hitting back at critics, Lineker said that it was not true that the BBC had snubbed the opening ceremony. He tweeted: “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.”
Viewers tuning in to BBC One’s flagship broadcast, however, were unable to see the inclusivity-themed spectacular from the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, missing out on highlights such as BTS sensation Jungkook and Qatari singer Fahad al-Kubaisi. Hollywood A-lister Morgan Freeman, who narrated the ceremony, also made an appearance in the stadium to shake hands with a FIFA World Cup ambassador who has a rare spinal disease, in an image designed to reflect inclusion in a country that has come under fire for its human rights record.