Gary Lineker has regret as BBC ‘sportswashed’ by Russia 2018 World Cup

World Cup: Gary Lineker's opening remarks for BBC coverage

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Gary Lineker, 61, has spoken about the BBC being “sportswashed” after choosing to condemn the World Cup for being held in Qatar at the weekend. The star has admitted he also failed to see the controversial elements of the tournament back in 2018, which was held in Russia. 

Gary expressed how he felt the BBC should have spoken up about Russia back then, and that he feels “uncomfortable” when he thinks about the “sportswashing” that occurred from the broadcaster.

Reflecting on his stance four years ago, Gary suggested he regretted not calling out Russia in the same way he has done with Qatar. 

He added that the BBC had not done enough to tackle the controversies of the 2018 host nation at the time.

“I think we were sportswashed four years ago, when it was in Russia,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Media Show. 

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“I think we were all going how great it was, and this and that and the other, and that’s how sportwashing works. 

“We didn’t talk perhaps enough about the other issues. So it was deemed the right thing to do.”

FIFA has been criticised for allowing the World Cup to go ahead in Qatar due to the country’s treatment of the LGBTQ community and women in the Middle Eastern country.

Ahead of the opening game between the hosts and Ecuador on Sunday, Gary delivered an introduction that drew attention to the rights of migrant workers, LGBT people and women in the nation as part of the BBC’s coverage.

While many are calling this the “most controversial World Cup in history”, Gary has argued that when Russia hosted the competition four years ago, it should have faced just as much scrutiny.

Russia’s ruthless invasion of Ukraine at the time, which escalated into a war earlier this year, should have sparked a lot more criticism according to Gary, but instead people largely ignored the controversy.

While FIFA faced calls to strip Russia of its right to host the tournament after it annexed Crimea in 2014, former president Sepp Blatter still went on to grant them the honour four years later, with little recognition of the conflict

This year, the BBC chose not to show any of the opening ceremony in Qatar on its live television coverage, instead only including it online and making it available on BBC iPlayer.


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England made its debut at this year’s World Cup in Qatar on Monday, winning against Iran in a 6-2 victory. 

Controversy continues to surround the event, as England decided to do a U-turn on wearing their OneLove armbands.

England, Wales and five other European nations have backed down on wearing an armband in support of the LGBTQ+ community following a threat of sporting sanctions from world football’s governing body.

The UK teams previously had plans to wear the armbands to show their stance on LGBTQ+ issues, given the brutal punishments gay and queer people can be subjected to in Qatar.

A joint statement from the Football Associations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands said: “Fifa has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. 

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings. 

“So we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in Fifa World Cup games.”

England will play an exciting game against the USA on Friday, kicking off at 7pm. have contacted the BBC for comment.

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