Gary Lineker, an outspoken critic of the Qatar World Cup, pocketed £1.6 million while working for the Gulf state’s sports broadcaster.
The face of the BBC‘s World Cup coverage gave a ‘virtue- signalling’ monologue ahead of the tournament’s opening match, singling out the host nation’s record on human rights and migrant workers.
But it has emerged that he was paid £400,000 a year for four years from 2009 to 2013 by Al Jazeera, which is owned by the Qatari state. Lineker’s contracts to front Champions League coverage for the channel – seen by The Daily Mail – included ‘minimum 5-star hotels’ and first-class flights if necessary.
He is said to have insisted on a one-week holiday each February to allow for his traditional trip to Barbados. Lineker’s last deal with the Doha-based broadcaster was signed in August 2012 – 20 months after the controversial decision to hand Qatar the World Cup.
Gary Lineker, an outspoken critic of the Qatar World Cup, pocketed £1.6 million while working for the Gulf state’s sports broadcaster
The paperwork – signed by either Lineker’s agent Jon Holmes or Lineker himself – featured clauses in which the 61-year-old former England striker promised to use his ‘best endeavours to promote, develop and expand the business of the first party [the broadcaster] and its interests generally’. Sources close to Lineker claim he terminated the relationship when it became clear ‘what was going on in Qatar’.
The contracts are between Al Jazeera Ltd, now known as beIN Sports, and Lineker’s Derby-based firm All Jazz Limited, which was closed down in 2016 following Lineker’s divorce from Danielle Bux. It saw him present the Champions League coverage two nights a week during the competition for Al Jazeera Sport from its London studio.
The Mail has also obtained an email exchange between Mr Holmes and Al Jazeera representatives from July 2012. In it, the agent suggests a four-year extension worth £3.5 million would be ‘considered’. He adds that a further three years – should Al Jazeera become a UK broadcaster of Premier League rights in the next round of media rights sales – could be added as ‘an agreed option’.
It has emerged that he was paid £400,000 a year for four years from 2009 to 2013 by Al Jazeera, which is owned by the Qatari state. Lineker’s contracts to front Champions League coverage for the channel – seen by The Daily Mail – included ‘minimum 5-star hotels’ and first-class flights if necessary
That deal, which would have seen Lineker pick up £875,000 a year, was rejected, with those in Qatar ‘stunned’ at the figures being quoted.
Lineker, who had a clause in his BBC contract which allowed him to work elsewhere, was criticised over the corporation’s coverage at the start of the Qatar tournament, which failed to show the opening ceremony in full.
In his opening monologue, he said: ‘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. Stick to football, say Fifa. Well, we will – for a couple of minutes at least.’
Revealing that its coverage of the opening game had received 1,435 complaints, the BBC admitted some viewers ‘took issue’ with ‘a discussion during our coverage on human rights in Qatar’.
Lineker’s stance has triggered outrage in Doha.
One source, who did not wish to be named, said the former player had displayed ‘hypocrisy’ by ‘virtue-signalling when you have pocketed so much money from the very country you are criticising’.
They added: ‘It is brazen and scarcely believable… he signed the last contract a long time after the World Cup was awarded and the outrage that followed.’
Yesterday the head of the World Cup branded some of the BBC’s coverage ‘very racist’ and accused Lineker of snubbing attempts to engage with organisers before criticising them live on air.
Hassan Al-Thawadi, the secretary-general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, told talkSPORT: ‘They never bothered to listen to the other side, or at least present a balanced view to be able to sit down and move forward. So there are definitely agendas that are presented very clearly that are beyond football.’
Responding on Twitter, Lineker wrote: ‘This is news to me. Neither my agent nor myself received any request to engage with anyone involved with Qatar 2022.’
BeIN Sports and a spokesman for Lineker both declined to comment.