By Nathan Salt For Mailonline
Gary Neville was left to squirm his way through hosting Have I Got News For You as the former Manchester United and England defender was grilled on his decision to work for state-owned broadcaster beIN Sports at the World Cup.
Neville, anchoring the BBC news show for the first time, was backed into a corner to defend his ‘reputation’ as the topic of him accepting money from a Qatari broadcaster was brought up.
Qatar’s human rights record has been heavily scrutinised in the years since they were awarded the World Cup by FIFA – with human rights groups furious at the lack of answers over deaths of migrant workers.
Neville is working for beIN Sports as a commentator throughout the World Cup and he looked to justify his decision by suggesting he can make a greater impact working for the broadcaster to highlight key social and political issues.
‘You know David Beckham, don’t you? He’s going, isn’t he? How much is he being paid?’ panellist Paul Merton asked Neville.
‘I don’t know,’ came Neville’s sheepish reply. ‘More than me!’
In a bid to try and take back control of the news agenda being debated on the show, Neville turned to Ian Hislop, a long-time panellist on the show, and asked if ‘it’s coming home?’
‘What, your reputation?’ came the terse reply.
Ian Hislop (right) grilled Gary Neville (left) over his decision to work as a commentator for state-owned broadcaster beIN Sports during the World Cup in Qatar this month
Hislop suggested Neville should have stayed away from Qatari money to challenge key issues
Hislop, editor of Private Eye, felt other panellists had been ‘very gentle’ with Neville be he ruthlessly went for the ex-footballer in search of answers as to why exactly he has accepted Qatari money.
‘The elephant in the room is you’re commentating there. What’s the defence?’ Hislop asked.
‘Yeah, I’m commentating,’ Neville said.
‘Well, you’ve got a choice, haven’t you? My view always has been that you either highlight the issues and challenges in these countries and speak about them, or you basically don’t say anything and stay back home and don’t go. And I think we should challenge them.’
That defence simply did not wash with Hislop, who was eager to extract a legitimate argument for his work with beIN Sports.
There have been numerous protests from angry fans over human rights violations in Qatar
Qatar has been criticised for its treatment of workers during the construction of stadiums
‘The other option is you stay at home and highlight the abuses. You don’t have to take the Qataris’ money. It’s just not a very good defence.’
Neville was left near-speechless as the live audience applauded.
‘That’s…’ he said, before tailing off.
Neville’s appearance on the show was so crucial topics discussed surrounding the World Cup, including members of the LGBTQ+ community being told they should ‘flex and compromise’ in Qatar by UK foreign secretary James Cleverly.
‘It’s unbelievable and it’s all about money and you’ve got mainline celebrities going over there for huge cheques,’ Richard Madeley said, unfazed by Neville being a few feet to his right. ‘You’ve got people like Robbie [Williams] going out there to sing, which I must say I’m very surprised about given all the comments that Robbie Williams has made in the past about gay rights.
‘The fact that he’s going out there to sing is extraordinary. I don’t know what’s happened to people. And it’s not just him, the Black Eyed Peas are going, aren’t they?’
Last month Neville bullishly defended his decision to form part of beIN Sports’ media and commentary team for the tournament, which begins on November 20.
Neville’s Sky Sports colleague, Jamie Carragher (right), came to his close friend’s defence
Carragher tweeted that Neville ‘was still standing by the end’ after hosting the BBC news show
‘We are talking about Man City like it’s a golden ticket – they’re owned by Abu Dhabi, who have massive issues with women’s rights, worker’s rights, LGBTQ rights… exactly the same, in fact worse, than Qatar,’ Neville told Sportsmail.
‘Qatar have had Amnesty International and the International Labour Organisation all over them for the last 10 years because of the World Cup.
‘Saudi Arabia have come into our country to own Newcastle and they’ve got terrible human rights issues over there – the journalist killed there a few years ago, for example – and people work for them in this country.
‘We either decide we are going to work with these nations in the middle east – we have sold about 40 billion quid’s worth of arms to middle eastern countries over the last 10 years as a UK Government, they own half of London and are probably donating to the Conservative party.
‘We either decide that we collaborate with these countries, and try and impact change through football – which is what I think we should always do – or we say we’re never going to let them play sport, we’re never going to have a World Cup there, we’re never going to allow them to compete against us because they don’t have what would be as progressive rights as they should have.
‘That is the reality of where I’m at with it.’
Neville has vowed to highlight issues in Qatar during his work for state-owned beIN SPORTS
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group