Ofcom has opted not to take any action after there were 705 complaints registered over Gary Neville's rant during coverage of the World Cup.
The tournament in Qatar was arguably the most divisive in recent history; the decision to award it to the country was criticised before the unprecedented decision was made to play it in the winter. Qatar's human rights issues and attitudes towards women and the LGBT+ community were some of the main points of contention.
Neville highlighted these topics in the lead-up to the World Cup and continued to do so in his role as a pundit. The former player turned pundit also took aim at the British Government, which he has done regularly on social media, but his rant resulted in an angry reaction from many.
Despite that, Ofcom has chosen not to take any action, insisting that Neville's comments were part of a wider debate. The regulatory body did, however, state that it would remind ITV of its need to remain impartial.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We considered complaints from viewers who objected to a pundit’s comments during ITV’s live coverage of the World Cup Final. In our view, the live, brief and unscripted remarks came amidst a wider discussion about the policies and actions of the Qatari Government, which gave due weight to a range of views.
“However, we have given guidance to ITV reminding them of their due impartiality obligations, and ITV has assured us that presenters and studio guests will be reminded of these rules.”
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Neville, himself a member of the Labour Party, has long called out the Conservative Party for the way it has run the country since its landslide election victory in 2019. He said on ITV: “The working system of Kafala which obviously through football the conversation has started and it's been removed here now in Qatar but it is abhorrent and we should detest low pay, we should detest poor accommodation and working conditions.
“We can never accept that in this region or any other region and it is just worth mentioning we've got a current government in our country that are demonising rail workers, ambulance workers and terrifying nurses. In our country, we've got to look at workers rights but when football goes, we have to pick up on workers rights wherever it goes because people have got to be equal and treated equal.”
In response, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed that viewers didn't want to hear Neville discuss politics. "I think when most people are tuning in to watch Gary Neville, they want to hear about the football and watch the football. They don't want to discuss politics," he said.