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.
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’.