Toby Young

Why has Gary Lineker been appointed a visiting fellow at Oxford?

Why has Gary Lineker been appointed a visiting fellow at Oxford?
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Congratulations to Gary Lineker OBE, who has just been appointed a visiting fellow to Lady Margaret Hall, an Oxford college. This coup was announced on Twitter earlier today by Alan Rusbridger, principal of LMH and ex-editor of the Guardian:

Lineker is among nine new fellows appointed by LMH, with Emma Watson becoming an associate fellow, having served as a visiting fellow from 2016-19 “with particular emphasis on promoting gender equality and women’s rights”, according to the college’s press release.

That’s Watson, not Lineker, who might have struggled to reconcile that with his refusal to take a pay cut as the BBC’s highest-paid star – he earns £1.75 million a year – to redress the corporation’s gender pay gap. Indeed, he was the only man on the BBC’s list of its highest-paid stars who refused to do so.

Exactly what Lineker’s qualifications are for taking up this new honorarium remain unclear. LMH’s website lists his footballing achievements but neglects to say what contribution he is expected to make to the intellectual life of the college.

Perhaps he will give a series of lectures on the critical role he has played in the campaign for a second EU referendum, a cause Rusbridger has tweeted about in the past. (Which might explain why Michael Gove has yet to be made a visiting fellow, in spite of being a former LHM student.)

Or maybe Lineker will just entertain the students with colourful anecdotes from his footballing career, such as the time he defecated on the pitch in the middle of England’s match against Ireland during the 1990 World Cup:

This isn’t the first time Lineker has been recognised for his cerebral contribution to British public life. Five years ago, he was one of 200 names to sign a petition in favour of tighter regulation of the press – 200 people described by Hacked Off as ‘the leading figures in literature, arts, science, academia, human rights and the law’. Not just a leading figure but one of the leading figures, although Hacked Off neglected to add ‘football punditry’ to its list of highbrow cultural activities.

It just goes to show how high you can climb in contemporary Britain if you use your celebrity status to back the causes beloved by the metropolitan elite. Who knows, if Lineker becomes a patron of Mermaids, the fashionable trans charity, he may be able to book himself a plot in Westminster Abbey.

Written byToby Young

Toby Young is the co-author of What Every Parent Needs to Know and the co-founder of several free schools. In addition to being an associate editor of The Spectator, he is an associate editor of Quillette. Follow him on Twitter @toadmeister