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REVEALED: Rio Ferdinand was dropped by the BBC for the World Cup’s opening game amid fears of hypocrisy accusations because of the pundit’s links to Saudi Arabia

  • Rio Ferdinand was left out for the BBC’s coverage of the first World Cup fixture
  • The former England defender was due to appear as a pundit for Qatar v Ecuador 
  • He was overlooked due to concerns it would lead to accusations of hypocrisy
  • The show’s beginning was dominated by discussing Qatar’s human rights record
  • And Ferdinand, 44, has ties to Saudi Arabia – which has similar ethical problems 
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

Rio Ferdinand was overlooked for the BBC‘s coverage of the World Cup’s opening game due to concerns that his links with Saudi Arabia would lead to accusations of hypocrisy in a debate over Qatar’s human rights record.

The former England defender was due to appear with Alan Shearer and Alex Scott alongside host Gary Lineker at Al Bayt Stadium for Qatar vs Ecuador.

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But he was replaced by ex-Wales defender Ashley Williams when it became clear that the start of the programme would be dominated by ethical issues. 

Pundit Rio Ferdinand, 44, was overlooked by the BBC for the first game of the Qatar World Cup

Pundit Rio Ferdinand, 44, was overlooked by the BBC for the first game of the Qatar World Cup

The former Manchester United was due to work for the curtain-raising Qatar v Ecuador match but was dropped due to concerns over accusations of hypocrisy over his links to Saudi Arabia

The BBC did not show the opening ceremony on their main channel, instead discussing Qatar’s human rights record. The BBC denied Ferdinand was dropped. 

‘This is categorically untrue,’ said a spokesperson. ‘It was important to represent the home nations within the opening show and these were the key considerations for the line-up chosen, any suggestion otherwise is completely false.’ 

Lineker began coverage on BBC One by highlighting issues such as the deaths of migrant workers, the ban on homosexuality and women’s rights. 

Ferdinand was instead replaced by Ashley Williams - but the BBC has denied Rio was dropped

Ferdinand was instead replaced by Ashley Williams – but the BBC has denied Rio was dropped

Ferdinand has posted social media messages about receiving 'unreal' hospitality in Saudi

Ferdinand has posted social media messages about receiving ‘unreal’ hospitality in Saudi

Many of the same issues also apply in Saudi Arabia, which is understood to have been raised by BBC executives as a potential problem for Ferdinand when they were planning the programme. 

Ferdinand was a guest of the Ministry of Investment in Saudi Arabia last year at a conference designed to promote ‘investment opportunities in the kingdom’ called Catalyse Saudi. 

It is unclear if Ferdinand, who has posted social messages about receiving ‘unreal’ hospitality in Saudi, has invested in the country.

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