Sports Personality of the Year: Time for a change in format?

Last night saw the 2014 Sports Personality of the Year presentation and I can’t help thinking that the show and the award has become a farce. The bizarre booking of Simple Minds to open the show, the sheer tediousness of the entire event, the ridiculous shortlist of candidates and the public choosing the wrong winner. Is it time for SPOTY to change the format of the show?

Lets start with the list of 10 nominees for the Sports Personality of the Year award – Gareth Bale (Football), Charlotte Dujardin (Dressage), Carl Froch (Boxing), Kelly Gallagher & Charlotte Evans (Winter Paralympic Alpine Skiing), Lewis Hamilton (Formula One), Rory McIlroy (Golf), Jo Pavey (Athletics), Adam Peaty (Swimming), Max Whitlock (Gymnastics), Elizabeth Yarnold (Winter Olympic Skeleton).

The most glaring omission is that of Sam Burgess, Rugby League star. This year he won the biggest club competition in Rugby League (NRL Title) with South Sydney Rabbitohs, in the NRL Grand Final he broke his cheekbone in the first minute but continued playing and lead his team to victory winning the Clive Churchill Medal for Man of the Match in the process, he won the award for Best Lock in the NRL, he came 3rd in the NRL Player of the Season voting and won the RLIF International Player of the Year award which is given to the best player in Rugby League. Quite an incredible year, I’m sure you’ll agree. But somehow the panel of “experts” that decide the nominees came to the conclusion that Jo Pavey, Gareth Bale and Carl Froch were better candidates.

The Pavey nomination is ridiculous. She won a European Gold Medal in the 10,000m and a Bronze in the 5,000m at the Commonwealth Games. Mo Farah won 2 golds at the Europeans, he isn’t nominated. Adam Gemili won 2 Gold’s at the Europeans and 2 Silver’s at the Commonwealths, he isn’t nominated, Greg Rutherford won a Gold at each, he isn’t nominated, so why is she?. Is being 40 years old and a recent Mother a good enough reason to win a nomination and a 3rd place? Not even close in my opinion. Even worse than Pavey being nominated was the fact that Carl Froch was. He won 1 fight in 2014, knocking George Groves out in their huge Wembley bout. Does that qualify him as one of the top 10 British Sportspeople of 2014, absolutely not. Again with Bale, his yearly CV doesn’t come close to Burgess in terms of individual honours. He did score in Real Madrid’s Copa Del Rey and Champions League victories but he wasn’t even close to the best player on their team. It is an utter disgrace that Sam Burgess wasn’t nominated.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is another sportsperson who can feel hard done by to not be nominated. He Won the Masters, was Runner Up in the World Championships, Won the UK Championship and had 2 maximum breaks in the season to become the all time leader for 147’s. Not to mention the revolutionary impact he has had on Snooker. There is no doubt in my mind that he had a better year than the 3 nominees I mentioned above.

Putting all that aside, the actual show was dreary and exceptionally boring. Simple Minds were a confusing choice to open the show. They clearly wanted a Scottish act but the choice of a band who peaked in the 1980’s before many of the sportspeople in the crowd were alive seemed poorly thought out. There was nothing innovative about the show, nothing different and it followed the same blueprint of previous years. Highlight package of each nominee/their sport, short interview with them, repeat, repeat, repeat. It is way too repetitive and that leads to viewer boredom.

Having said that nothing can excuse how on earth the British public concluded that Lewis Hamilton should win ahead of Rory McIlroy, by over 86,000 votes. I understand that people feel McIlroy is no longer British as he has decided to represent Ireland at the Olympics but he was nominated and therefore I feel that should be ignored. Don’t get me wrong, Hamilton had a great year. But he was in a car that was streets ahead of anything else on the grid in F1 this season. He beat one man, his teammate, Nico Rosberg. McIlroy had one of the most historic runs of excellence in any sport over the last decade (if not longer) and is World Number 1 in a notoriously competitive and difficult to predict sport (post Tiger era). He won the Open Championship in July then 2 weeks later won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and then 1 week after that won his 2nd Major of the year, the USPGA Championship. He then went on to lead Europe to victory in the Ryder Cup and swept the PGA Tour Awards (winning all 5 available awards).

In my opinion the Sports Personality of the Year voting needs an overhaul. I think this year has proved that the British public can’t be trusted to give this most prestigious award away (see also: Ryan Giggs 2009). There should be some kind of carefully selected panel of journalists and former sportspeople that represents a number of sports (not just the mainstream). They should vote on their top 3 and then this should be combined with a public vote to find a winner. This seems a much fairer way to give out the award and hopefully will put an end to the farcical situations that have arisen this year.

I’d also like to add that I very much see this award as rewarding someone for the year they have had in their sport. Just because “personality” is in the name of the award doesn’t mean that should be a criteria for who wins. Sports Personality of the Year is a huge honour to bestow upon someone, sadly we are giving the wrong people that honour. That must change.

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