Is Sports Personality Out of Touch?

For a very long time I LOVED the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. I used to sit round the TV with my family and really enjoy the re-cap of sports from the year. I don’t love sports per se, but I will watch the finals of almost ANY sport, which works for me.

In particular my mum’s favourite thing was to compare the bias towards football in the coverage of sports again the coverage given to Rugby League (her chosen sport). Usually she would literally time the coverage of RL  and if it got over 2 minutes, she almost did her own version of a victory lap!

But these days I have very mixed feelings about SPOTY as I no longer think it’s relevant in today’s society. In case you aren’t familiar, this is the nominations procedure*

The shortlist is announced a few weeks before the award ceremony, and the winner is determined on the night by a public telephone and on-line vote. Prior to 2012, a panel of thirty sports journalists each submitted a list of ten contenders. From these contenders a shortlist of ten nominees was determined. This method was criticized following the selection of an all-male shortlist in 2011. The selection process for contenders was changed for the 2012 and subsequent awards by the introduction of an expert panel. The panel produces a shortlist that reflects UK sporting achievements on the national and/or international stage, represents the breadth and depth of UK sports and takes into account ‘impact’ within and beyond the sport or sporting achievement in question. (*Wikipedia)

But the trouble is, despite the change in shortlist procedures in 2012, this year’s final 16 is made up of an uneven 6 women and 10 men with:

  • 1 Boxer
  • 2 Footballers
  • 1 Tri-athlete
  • 1 Tennis player
  • 1 Swimmer
  • 1 Hockey player
  • 2 Equestrian Riders
  • 2 Cyclist
  • 1 Gymnast
  • 1 Golfer
  • 2 Athletes

You see there are SO many amazing athletes that just having one SPOTY no longer feels enough. So many people are under represented that if Twitter is anything to go by, people are now just offended that people are left out rather than being pleased at the eventual winner. A good example of this is Michael Bisping. He is a mixed martial arts fighter from Clitheroe who is the first British MMA fighter to win and defend a UFC World Title. He is single handedly flying the flag for British MMA on both sides of the pond and doesn’t even get a mention on SPOTY. Sadly this isn’t the only example.

There hasn’t been  female winner for 10 years and this, in 2016 is frankly unacceptable. But, I hear you argue, the public vote for the SPOTY winner so this can’t be the BBC’s fault. Oh but YES it is! Firstly if not enough women are nominated, then there aren’t as many to vote for. But more importantly, if not enough women in sport are represented on TV, funded and publicised, then the voting public won’t recognise them as champions.

It’s time for a change, a massive fucking overhaul of the way sport is represented, championed reported and viewed. It’s not enough to have a token female presenter on Match of the Day and someone in a wheelchair mainstream reporting. You don’t get to feel smug about that.

SPOTY is part of an old school of thinking and feels more like a beauty pageant. The sports people that win have achieved some frankly OUTSTANDING things… but then so have SO many other people too. Maybe the answer at least is to have at the very least a male and female award and grow from there.

But come on BBC, an awards format that worked in 1954 has no place in 2016. You are better than that.

G x



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