Gary Lineker said football was “on the brink” financially and expressed concern about the game’s financial structure.
The former English captain and Match of the Day presenter spoke for the media show on Radio 4 during an interview with Ros Atkins from the BBC.
Lineker, 60, covered a range of topics including gambling advertising, social media, and match of the day.
Lineker’s concern for smaller clubs
Clubs at all levels of football suffered significant losses in broadcast and matchday income when the Covid-19 pandemic first broke out in March 2020, with large parts of the 2020-21 season played behind closed doors.
A poll by Deloitte Football Money League in January 2021 found the coronavirus pandemic will cost Europe’s 20 richest clubs more than £ 1.7 billion by the end of last season.
“Football is on the brink, but then it seems to have been and will always be alive,” said Lineker.
“Look at Barcelona and how they got themselves in such a bad financial position.
“If it can happen to them, despite the amount of money they get, how can it be easy for a small club? We have seen clubs hit the wall.”
Despite the financial troubles during the pandemic, Premier League clubs gave a total of $ 1.1 billion in the summer transfer window.
Deloitte football finance expert Tim Bridge recently said on The Sports Desk podcast that Covid-19 had accelerated the power shift of football to big donors.
Lineker, who played for Leicester, Everton, Barcelona and Spurs between 1979 and 1992, said football “needs to find a way” to filter money to lower division clubs.
“The thing about football is that it’s so important to the local communities. They hope that people will find a way to keep the clubs alive, but I think football has to find a way to get some of that money to filter out. “
Derby County announced last week that it would appoint administrators due to ongoing financial problems. The championship club is now threatened with a deduction of 12 points from the EFL, although the future of the club and its employees is uncertain.
“You like to think that if football can survive this it can survive anything, but time will tell,” said Lineker.
“I’m not worried about the giants because I think they will always find a way, but it will always be very difficult for the smaller clubs and the smaller cities.”
On social media and online abuse
Lineker has a significant social media presence with more than eight million followers on Twitter – which means he gets a lot of exposure when he posts online.
He said, “I never tweet something I don’t really believe in, and I very rarely look at the mentions under my tweets or my name. I will really only see comments or replies on Twitter from those I follow or are verified users.
“I think the offensive nature of the people on these platforms is ruining it for everyone else. The vast majority of the people in this country are really, really good people and nice if they wanted to.
“That’s why I don’t read them, but if you don’t read these answers, you don’t read anything from the nice people and the really good comments, you miss that too, which is a shame because you could have a decent conversation about something.
“I avoid that because you might have 1,000 nice tweets, but the bad one is the one you remember, so I just think: why bother?
“When I tweet, I have three rules. I don’t tweet when I’ve had a drink, I don’t tweet when I’m angry and when I’m about to post a tweet I read it back and if I have even 1% doubt about sending it, send I don’t. That’s my rule. “
When asked if his social media activities are affecting the perception of the BBC, Lineker says, “I consider myself a freelancer anyway.
“Of course I’ve been working with the BBC and have been for years, I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years and I’ve always – I think – always been considerate of my employers when I’ve done this.”
About Match of the Day and viewer habits
Lineker has been a regular host to BBC’s Match of the Day since 1999 and believes it continues to have a prominent place in sports broadcast.
“It [Match of the Day] is pretty remarkable,” he said. “It goes against the trend with so many other things in sports and television. Highlights don’t work in anything other than sports and football. I think as a program it gives something to the nation.
“We have to remember that a lot of people still don’t have Sky Sports, BT Sport or Amazon or whatever. It gives them their weekly solution.
“We’re attracting a much younger audience now, particularly through catch-up TV and the BBC iPlayer.”
In the UK, football matches cannot be televised or broadcast live on regular league and cup Saturdays during the season between 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. – a regulation that aims to protect viewers across the country at 3:00 p.m.
That verdict recently came into focus when Cristiano Ronaldo’s second debut for Manchester United against Newcastle began at 3:00 p.m. BST on a Saturday – meaning it was only broadcast live nationwide on BBC Radio 5 Live before the highlights hit Match of were shown the day.
For Lineker, the broadcast restriction is “really important” for football.
“It’s one of the great wonders of the Premier League and football in this country – it really doesn’t happen anywhere else,” he said.
“It’s being done to protect audience numbers and to make sure people keep going to soccer games because you want full houses at a soccer game – I think we noticed that more than ever during the pandemic.
“If you started televising every game, the audience would inevitably become sparse, which would also diminish the end product of the broadcast.
“We protect the minor leagues too. We have an incredible football pyramid that we love to protect. If everyone plays at 3pm on a Saturday but everyone stays to see Ronaldo’s debut for Manchester United, it will” have an impact elsewhere.
“The way it works in this country is a great thing for lower-league teams too.”
“Eliminate gambling in our sport”
Former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton recently called for a change in gambling advertising in football. Shilton argued that soccer jerseys are a “back door” to expose young people to the gambling industry.
He and activists filed a 12,000-strong petition at 10 Downing Street earlier this month calling for an end to gambling sponsorship in football.
Lineker has shown his support for the campaign.
“I’m not against gambling,” Lineker said. “But I’ve had a lot of people in my life who have been affected by gambling and Peter Shilton is someone I tried to support with his campaign.
“I don’t mind people betting here or there, but the constant push in football in terms of sponsorship and television in terms of advertising is difficult because a lot of people have a problem with that.
“I agree with trying to eradicate gambling in our sport. I would love it if the game changes its rules. I have said it many times.”