GROWING up, my annual television highlight was always BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

I would not miss a minute of the show that chronicled in detail how the sporting year had unfolded. I’d be riveted even to the rugby league and cricket sections.

I remember voting for Sally Gunnell in 1992 following her win at the Barcelona Olympics, although she ultimately came third behind Linford Christie and winner, Nigel Mansell.

I remember being thrilled when Greg Rusedski pipped Tim Henman to the prize in 1997 because I always preferred the Canadian-born player to the Englishman.

And I remember being beyond delighted at being invited to my first SPOTY, in 2006 having won a medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

On the night in 2006, I could barely believe I was sitting amongst the great and the good of British sport at an event I had revered for well over a decade.

That evening, former Scotland rugby captain Andy Nicol pointed out during a chat a common phenomenon that happens to almost everyone throughout the course of the evening.

“No one makes eye contact with the person they’re speaking to because they’re always looking over the person’s shoulder for someone more famous to speak to,” he said, before slinking away to speak to someone (a lot) more famous than me.

The thing was that despite who you were, there was always someone more famous just a few steps away, such was the roll call at the event.

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Nowadays, SPOTY is a shadow of its former self. And that’s putting it kindly.

The downfall started when the BBC began to lose the rights to many major sports. Whereas before, the show could feature endless highlights of any sport it wished, it has now been shorn of the ability to showcase all but the bare bones of the sporting calendar.

And this year’s announcement of the SPOTY contenders has highlighted just how little respect the event commands from some quarters at least.

The BBC revealed the shortlist of contenders battling for the top prize: snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, cricketer Stuart Broad, footballer, Jordan Henderson, jockey Hollie Doyle, F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and boxer Tyson Fury.

Hamilton is the bookies’ favourite having secured his seventh world title last month but it is the final name on the list, Fury, that has ensured the event has been engulfed first by confusion then farce.

Fury was nominated as a result of his defeat of Deontay Wilder in February which saw him claim the WBC heavyweight title.

However, on learning of his nomination, Fury released a statement on social media requesting the BBC remove him from the shortlist.

“This is a message for BBC Sport and their SPOTY award – please take me off your list as I’m the people’s champion and have no need for verification or any awards,” he wrote on Instagram.

“I know who I am and what I’ve done in the sport. I have the love of the people which means more to me than all the awards in the world. To anyone who supports me, don’t vote.”

For a few hours, confusion abounded. However, after much deliberation within the BBC, it was announced Fury would remain on the shortlist and would be invited to participate in the show if he so wished.

After his statement, it’s easy to assume Fury won’t be part of the show, but whether he is or isn’t is beside the point. His stance highlights a wider attitude that SPOTY just doesn’t matter anymore.

For a show that was once one of the highlights of the year for athletes and fans alike, it is an almighty fall from grace. Given the dearth of sporting rights the BBC owns these days, it seems all but impossible the award will ever regain its standing.

So perhaps the most sensible thing to do is to call it quits, and leave SPOTY as a warm, nostalgic memory to so many of us who grew up loving it when it actually meant something.


THE announcement last week that the British Indoor Athletics Championships will return to Glasgow in February is a welcome and timely boost for the sport in this country.

Track and field has produced some of Scotland’s stand-out athletes over the past few years, with Laura Muir in particular becoming a household name.

With the pandemic decimating the athletics’ season this year, the sport will be glad of a major event to look forward to.

The 2020 version of the British Indoors, which was also held at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, was shorn of a number of top names due, in large part, to the fact it came only a week after the Muller Grand Prix, which was held at the same venue.

However, the 2021 staging of the event will likely have far greater star power considering the dearth of racing that has been available to Britain’s top athletes this year.

February’s event will be held behind closed doors, and while it is disappointing crowds will not be filling the stands, it will nevertheless be a welcome return to the limelight for the sport.