VIEWERS slammed a “farcical” Match of the Day as the BBC aired Premier League highlights with no presenter, pundits or commentators.
The much-loved show, created by BBC back in 1964, aired on Saturday night in a bizarre 20-minute format amid the carnage of the Beeb’s Gary Lineker tweet row.
The flagship programme had no presenters, pundits or commentators after staff masterminded a mutiny in solidarity with Lineker.
Co-hosts Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, Jermaine Jenas, Alex Scott, Mark Chapman and Micah Richards refused to fill in, plunging the show into crisis.
The show’s commentary team also stood down – with the dulcet tones of Conor McNamara, Simon Brotherton and Robyn Cowen all falling silent.
Match Of The Day – which usually runs for 80-minutes – started at the usual time of 10.20pm but only showed Premier League match highlights in a largely silent presentation.
Even the iconic theme tune and opening sequence were absent as Liverpool’s loss to Bournemouth followed a brief “Premier League highlights” frame.
And footy fans quickly took to Twitter after tuning in to give their reaction to the “surreal” broadcast.
One fan wrote: “Even the Match of the day intro is protesting!”
Another asked: “Why am I sat commentating on Match of the Day myself?”
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“Match of the Day with no commentary – what a farce,” declared another.
A fellow viewer wrote: “Surreal watching a silent match of the day.”
While another said: “Match Of The Day on BBC One with zero commentary is…different.”
One added: “Bit speechless watching Match of the day.”
Some viewers insisted they enjoyed the change.
One fan wrote: “Fantastic match of the day instead of listing to all the b******s!”
Another said: “Honestly. This match of the day without presenters and over the top commentary is f***ing miles better !!!”
And a fellow fan commented: “Absolutely loving Match of the Day. No talking, no commentary… just football! Love it.”
Sun columnist Piers Morgan was not convinced by their argument.
Piers wrote: “BBC should now adjust the licence fee so that everyone on Twitter pretending to prefer Match of the Day in the new format can pay £1 less a month but only ever watch it that way in future.
“Spoiler alert: nobody would take that deal. It’s s***.”
Lineker was pulled off the programme – which he’s hosted since 1999 – on Friday after comparing the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill to “1930s Germany”.
UK Times on Sunday understands BBC boss Tim Davie is locked in a standoff with Mr Lineker, who refuses to back down amid a row over his controversial tweets.
Crisis-engulfed Davie told the BBC on Saturday he would “absolutely not” quit amid a fallout that has bought the corporation to its knees.
Football Focus, Final Score, the Fighting Talk podcast and 5Live’s 606 football phone in were all canned as the staff uprising sent schedules into meltdown.
It is unclear whether Match Of The Day 2 – which airs on Sunday – will go ahead.
Mr Davie described the unfolding disaster as a “difficult day” and apologised for the disruption to BBC sports programming.
Asked if he was sorry about the way he handled the furore, he told the BBC on Saturday: “We made decisions and I made decisions based on a real passion about what the BBC is and it’s difficult.”
He insisted the row is about impartiality.
As his employer battled fires on all fronts – Mr Lineker today took time out to watch his beloved Leicester City in action at the King Power Stadium against Chelsea.
The ex-England star was pictured watching the Foxes alongside one of his sons – and appeared all smiles despite his side losing 3-1.
The row was triggered when Mr Lineker responded to a video on Twitter of Home Secretary Suella Braverman as she presented the Government’s small boats plan.
The legislation will see migrants swiftly detained and removed to either their country of origin or a safe third state within 28 days.
Sharing the clip, Mr Lineker said: “Good heavens, this is beyond awful.”
Responding to another user who described him as “out of order”, he added: “We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.
“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”
In a statement after suspending Mr Lineker, the BBC outlined they had undergone “extensive discussions” with the ex-England star, 62, following the furore.
While the Beeb praised his sports coverage as “second to none” they said he should “keep well away from taking sides” on party political topics.
The crisis reached its peak late on Saturday when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waded into the row, saying the presenter’s suspension is an issue for the BBC, not him.
Mr Sunak said the chaos was “rightly a matter” for the BBC, not the Government.
He added that while he respected “not everyone will always agree” with Government policies, he praised Mr Lineker for being a “great footballer and talented presenter”.