Richard Keys has bizarrely claimed BBC bosses blocked their TV personalities from praising the World Cup in Qatar.
The former Sky Sports anchor, who now heads up beIN Sport’s coverage, has been a vocal supporter of the tournament, having worked in the region for a number of years. Keys has again heaped praise on the football festival, which culminated on Sunday with Argentina’s thrilling victory over France.
But while there is little doubt that the on-field product delivered, question marks over the country’s dubious human rights record, hostile views on the LGBTQ+ community and reports of thousands of migrant workers remain.
BBC ’s coverage, fronted by Gary Lineker, discussed the issues throughout the tournament - including in the build-up to the final. However, Keys has alleged that one member of the broadcaster’s staff had stated they were not to air positive views.
Writing in his often controversial blog, Keys said: “A mate, who I had staying with me, bumped into a friend now working for the BBC. He told him they weren’t allowed to express their real opinions about the tournament on air.
“They weren’t allowed to compliment the atmosphere, stadia or Qatar itself. What a sad state of affairs. For the record - he said he thought it had been brilliant.”
He added: “As for the tournament in general. It was as promised. No-one was left out. Everyone was welcome - whatever their colour, gender or allegiance. Arrests were a record low.
“There were no drug-fuelled drunken rampages like we saw in London before the Euro 2000 [sic] final. The streets were safe and enjoyable. The organisers deserve great credit for pulling it off.”
Mirror Football have contacted the BBC who strongly refute Keys' suggestions and instruct no such guidance was given to any of their pundits or presenters.
BBC made the decision to not air both the opening and closing ceremonies inside the Lusail Stadium, with Lineker addressing the situation. “As is customary on BBC One for major football finals we’re going to concentrate on the action,” he said.
“But if you would prefer and like to watch the closing ceremony it will be live iPlayer, the BBC Sport website and the red button.”
He then aimed a dig at the near-omnipresent FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who was rarely off camera during the tournament: “The closing ceremony is just getting underway, remember it is live on the red button and iPlayer,” Lineker added.
“If you want to watch FIFA president Gianni Infantino this week called it the best World Cup ever… I had a feeling he might.”
Pundit Alan Shearer then delivered his own withering verdict on the tournament, adding: “I think the reality of the World Cup is even more stark when you’ve been living in what feels like a football theme park for the last month.
“If Disney did football tournaments… But we must remember the blood, sweat and tears of everyone that’s made it happen. And it’s only right, I think, that FIFA compensates the migrant workers and their families.”