The Curious History of BBC Sports Personality of the Year

by guest blogger, Paul Moon


BBC Sports Personality of the Year - not normally won by the most obvious sporting candidate, nor the most apparent personality...!

Since its inception in 1954 it has been hard to take the BBC Sports Personality of the Year seriously because of the unabashed cronyism that accompanies it.  Conversely, if you love sport and treat the evening as a sporting caricature it can be great fun!

To say that this titular award is a fix is harsh but to say that it has been judged by a fair public vote is also untrue!  The programme is corrupt in the same way the Eurovision Song Contest is.  Evidence of bias is obvious where some sports are clearly marginalised.  Sport comes second to corporate hospitality and show business whilst words and phrases like junkets, old boys network and expense accounts readily abound!

Initially the top 10 are supposedly decided by a selection of leading newspapers and magazine sport editors who submit their nominations each year.  When asking the BBC who these arbitrators were they refused to give the names until after the 10 had been chosen.  In turn these nominations are excessively loaded to a cosy middle class club who select as if it were a popularity contest neither reflecting nor revealing the true sporting personality of that year.

Proof is very easy to find, for example, in the 56 years that it has been running there have been only three black winners (5%).  There have been 45 English winners (over 80%) with just nine wins from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (16%) put together.  Inexplicably, given the remit of the vote, two winners were from Republic of Ireland and Canada (4%).

John Curry
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John Curry: what do you mean he didn't deserve it?!

Just some of the unworthy and engineered winners include: Ryan Giggs (2009), Zara Phillips (2006), Greg Rusedski (1996), Torvill and Dean (1984), Robin Cousins (1980), John Curry (1976), David Steele (1975) and of course the biggest piece of sporting flattery in history – Princess Anne (1971).  Zara Phillips and her mother are the only pair of award-winners to be members of the same family.  This is quite coincidental and to suggest otherwise is outrageous, furthermore, talk of the BBC cosying up to the Royal Family is despicable!

The obsession with figure skating strikingly reveals the type of person that votes.  The Bolero dance routine was pleasant but it was not sport in the true sense.  For Torvill and Dean to be deemed the SPOTY winner over Sebastian Coe who won Olympic gold in the 1500 metres in record time defies belief and the decision gets worse with time!  He remains the only person to win successive Olympic 1500 metre titles.

There is some credible evidence that Ryan Giggs won it last year because of a sustained betting coup and this represents a modern day challenge for the BBC and this particular title!  It would be interesting to see this conspiracy theory thoroughly investigated but there were distinct betting patterns leading up to the award.  It was impossible to find someone who agreed with Giggs winning the title, even in Wales!  The rest of this article will be written assuming that this will not happen this year, though with a relatively small voting pool it could happen again!

The 57th award will be given on Sunday 19 December 2010 in the LG Arena in Birmingham and already you can irrespectively eliminate some genuine contenders because of criterion sampling!  The middle-classes would not vote for Phil Taylor in a contest of two with Giant Haystacks.  Darts is for the pub and not the Café Bon Bon.  Taylor (50) has had a fantastic year winning the World Championship, the European Championships, the Premier League, the UK Open and the World Matchplay.  He truly deserves recognition but there it will end.

Neither David Haye nor Mo Farah are cut from the cloth of former SPOTY’s which seems to compromise their respective chances somewhat.  Jessica Ennis is the best all round female athlete in the world but in this contest that will count for nothing, she will be overlooked again (came 3rd last year).

For horseracing fans the main danger is Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.  His efforts and achievement were real and he deserves acclaim.  He became Europe’s first US Open champion for 40 years when he clinched his maiden major title in impressive fashion at Pebble Beach.  To cap off a stunning year, Europe’s anchor player won the final singles match at the Ryder Cup earning the point that secured victory.

Tony McCoy - SPOTY Contender

Tony McCoy - odds-on for SPOTY 2010

By using any honest measuring sporting criteria there can only be one winner and the decision should be easy!  Anthony Peter McCoy OBE (born 4 May 1974 in Northern Ireland) has been the best National Hunt jockey in the history of the sport for a while now and he won the Grand National last year.  He is a sporting colossus and he deserves the award without reservation!

Regretfully, the type of person that votes in this competition has a penchant for Eventing and Show Jumping not horseracing (previously supplying two winners and one winner respectively).  There has not been a single winner from Horseracing since its commencement – even Lester Piggott did not win SPOTY!  To get this message into context ‘The Long Fellow’ never won this award despite 4,493 winners and nine Derby victories yet Zara Phillips did for bravely jumping a fence!

Surely even the ‘Radio Times Codgers Set’ appreciates that this year must be different?  Latest betting from Betfair offers hope that it could: A P McCoy [1.90] Graeme McDowell [7.0] Phil Taylor [7.8] Lee Westwood [14] Jessica Ennis [15] Tom Daley [28] Amy Williams [29] Graeme Swann [36] Mark Cavendish [75] Colin Montgomerie [85] David Haye [90] Bar [1000].

One notes that Phil Taylor has come into less than 7/1 from 66/1 in the last two weeks – is this another betting coup?

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