Match of the Day host Gary Lineker, the BBC’s best-paid presenter, has said he’s “in negotiations” over pay after reports that he will take a pay cut.
He did not deny the reports, but said he would make an announcement “when there is the time and place”.
He was paid £1.75m last year, and said footballers and broadcasters “can’t really justify our salary compared with people who do a real job”.
“But you know, that’s the market rate,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
The BBC has pledged to close the gender pay gap across the corporation by 2020, and men outnumbered women on the latest star salaries list in July.
Asked by 5 Live host Nihal Arthanayake how he felt about the reports earlier this week saying he would take a pay cut, the former footballer said he had become “a bit of a whipping boy” for critics of the corporation.
Asked if the reports were wrong, he replied: “I didn’t say it was not true. We are in negotiations at the moment. When there is the time and place to say what’s happening, we’ll all make it clear. And if not, you’ll read it every July [when the BBC lists its highest-paid stars’ salaries as part of its annual report].
“But I love working for the BBC. There are problems working for the BBC obviously because of what it is and what it entails, but it’s a great place, and I’d hope to be here working with the BBC for many years to come.”
He also discussed how lucrative it can be covering football on television.
“I get paid a lot of money because it’s a business, particularly around football and TV, that is very competitive, and it’s very well paid,” he said.
“There are pundits on Sky that in recent times are paid double what I’m on, and I’m not complaining about that. I wouldn’t complain for one single minute.”
He said he understood why some viewers feel his salary is very high.
“Of course I get that. I’ve always felt like that. I’ve felt incredibly fortunate. I felt like that when I was a footballer. And I feel like that as a broadcaster now.
‘Way beyond what you deserve’
“But you know, that’s the market rate. That’s what it’s worth. And obviously, you could get bit more somewhere else.
“It is what it is, and it’s the same whether you’re a footballer or whether you’re at the top of the entertainment world, or whether you’re a singer, whether you’re a top actor.
“You’re paid money that is way beyond really what you deserve, but nobody’s going to go, ‘Actually, no, I’ll for work for a pittance’. They’re not going to do that. I always feel uncomfortable talking about it, but at the same time, I’m not complaining.”
He was talking to promote a new book, and his comments follow a report in The Daily Mirror, which quoted him as saying: “I’m currently negotiating a new contract with them and I’m volunteering to take less.”
Lineker also works for BT Sport, fronting their Champions League football coverage.
Speaking about Lineker’s pay earlier this year, BBC director general Tony Hall said the success of BBC Sport, which reaches 40% of the UK population, has “much to do with Gary”, adding that he “does an excellent job”.
BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said he had “seen no evidence we are paying anyone above the market rate”, adding: “What I’ve seen suggests the opposite.”
Last year, six male BBC presenters, including Huw Edwards, John Humphrys and Jeremy Vine, agreed to take pay cuts.
Aside from Match of the Day, Lineker’s other BBC work includes World Cup and European Championships coverage, and he has presented golf programmes.
‘Sickening press intrusion’
He also discussed the outcry over press stories about cricketer Ben Stokes and former rugby player Gareth Thomas this week.
Lineker told 5 Live: “I thought after the hacking scandals it was almost like they [the papers] deliberately laid back a little bit or perhaps they couldn’t find the information off someone’s phone.
This week, newspapers faced a backlash after former rugby player Gareth Thomas revealed that journalists had forced him to go public with his HIV diagnosis.
Then cricketer Ben Stokes condemned a front page story in the Sun about a tragedy in his family 31 years ago as “immoral and heartless”.
“All of a sudden that reared its ugly head again this week. I just find it a bit sickening,” Lineker said.