England legend Gary Lineker slams Brexit as 'self harm' during David Miliband's 2019 South Shields Lecture

Football hero Gary Lineker has slammed Brexit as “self harm” and a “massive shame for our country” during the 2019 South Shields Lecture, hosted by former town MP David Miliband.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 5:22 pm
Updated Friday, 25th October 2019, 11:52 pm
Gary Lineker in conversation with David Miliband at Harton Academy.
Gary Lineker in conversation with David Miliband at Harton Academy.

Around 600 people attended the annual talk, held at Harton Academy, which covered Football, Brexit and Everything in Between.

And between the anecdotes of Lineker’s childhood days, career beginnings and famous footballing moments, came the ex-England striker’s views on why he is pro-Remain, and what impact he thinks Brexit is having on our nation.

It wasn’t a conscious decision to become political on social media, Lineker told the audience - but when he has “quite a large platform” he felt he should use it to share his own opinions on important issues.

David Miliband and Gary Lineker at Harton Academy for the 2019 South Shields Lecture.

In confessing he “did his homework” before revealing he is pro-Remain, Lineker explained to guests that he wanted to have open conversations with people about their political views – but that some of his Brexit-supporting friends and colleagues “don’t have an answer” when he discusses certain issues with them, including how leaving the EU could affect free movement for football players.

He added: “Nobody really thought this through.”

“For me, it’s just a massive shame for our country. It’s self harm. Divided our country, over what?”

Lineker also spoke of the reaction and backlash he received on social media in 2015, following a number of tweets he posted in support of refugees.

Gary Lineker spoke of his career in football, becoming a broadcaster and his political views at the lecture.

In being empathetic towards their plight, the pundit said he was “gobsmacked” at the response he received for voicing his view.

He said: “The world has a responsibility to look after human beings. It’s by sheer chance or place of birth that you are destined to be one thing or another.

“Most of us come from refugees in some form.”

But if there is one thing that’s universal, it’s the appeal of the beautiful game – and that certainly rang true in Lineker’s stories to the audience, and their questions at the end of the lecture.

Mr Miliband revealed that he invited Lineker to be the lecture's guest "out of the blue".

From his beginnings at Leicester to signing for Barcelona, returning to the Premier League with Tottenham and representing his country, the dad-of-four has certainly had a glittering career – and, he revealed, that was something he did not always expect.

In conversation with Mr Miliband, Lineker revealed he felt he was at his peak between the ages of 24 and 28 – but it was when he took to the pitch for Barcelona that he realised his success came down to more than just luck.

But, he already had a back-up plan in mind if a career in professional football did not go how he planned; and that’s where we find him today.

“In my mid-20s I started to think that’s what I would like if I didn’t make it … I thought I had more chance of making it in cricket,” Lineker said.

The pair with a piece of art created by Bob Olley in honour of the lecture.

“I thought I would go into journalism.”

While football came naturally to him, honing his craft as a sports broadcaster was something he had to work hard it – and it took a while to feel like he’d nailed it.

He added: “Three or four years in I started to get the hang of it. You become confident ... then you become yourself.

“In this world some people like you, and a lot of people hate you.”

During the lecture, Lineker also spoke about how the culture of football has changed since his playing days, racism in the game and the impact player pressure can have both on and off the pitch.

Both he and Mr Miliband received an enormous round of applause following the lecture’s end – with the latter praising South Shields for continuing to make his family feel welcome whenever they visit.

David Miliband became the town’s MP in 2001, and told guests that when he resigned from politics in 2013 he was “determined” to bring something back to the community which became so important to both him and his loved ones.

Celebrating the fact that the lectures have continued long after his tenure in South Shields, he added: “I am incredibly proud of the fact that I was the MP for 12 years. It was an absolute privilege.”

Prior to the talk’s start, Sir Ken Gibson, headteacher at Harton Academy, thanked students, staff and their community for their support.

The lecture series has been held at Harton for more than a decade, and is sponsored by Colmans Fish and Chips.

Attendance was free of charge, but guests were encouraged to make a donation to the Charlie and Carter Foundation, a local charity set up by Sarah and Chris Cookson in memory of their two sons.