Sports Personality of the Year is the next BBC show for knackers yard

Sports Personality of the Year is the next BBC show for knackers yard

December 17, 2023

After Question of Sport’s sad demise, brash Sports Personality of the Year is the next BBC show for knackers yard

  • The BBC’s annual Sports Personality of the Year awards take place on Tuesday
  • Lionesses goalkeeper Mary Earps is favourite to claim the individual accolade
  • The ceremony takes place in the wake of Question of Sport being cancelledย 

Roll up! Roll up! The Beeb’s Sports Personality of the Year shindig is on the way, and the show must go on.

It’s the annual plumping of pillows at BBC Sport, even though the irony increases every Christmas. That’s because the national broadcaster’s once-pioneering coverage recedes further and further into misty recollection.

The show has left town, but the bunting is still up.

It’s grown bigger, mind. This year’s pageant comes from Salford, a far cry from cosier days when the great achievers of sport literally rubbed shoulders in Television Centre. It is where Princess Anne and Jackie Stewart struck up a life-long friendship.

Then there were the years of satellite links and delays on the line as Des Lynam caught up with a Stateside Frank Bruno. And do you remember when Red Rum waltzed around the studio?

The BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2023 awards will be hosted on Tuesday at the corporations headquarters in Salford

The BBC’s annual sporting awards show is one of the remaining figures of the company’s sporting coverage

Now it is brasher and less homely โ€” and less relevant. Less relevant because of the Beeb’s retreat from games coverage in every form.ย 

Test Match Special, once lit up by a wordsmith as literate as John Arlott and the highly professional japery of Brian Johnston but now increasingly diverse and dumbed down as a statement of insulting intent, has missed out the rights to England’s tour to India next year, an emblem of disengagement.

A Question of Sport, already a parody of itself after a 20-year slide, is axed as of this weekend, unmourned in the end because it wasn’t half as funny as it was meant to be. Football Focus viewership is going down faster than sterling under Liz Truss.

Match of the Day clings on, but is only really valuable to those without Sky and the subscription channels that are the new pitch of televisual sport. Indeed, for good or bad, these usurper channels have rewritten the lexicon.

There is little cricket, football, rugby (though some), and no horse racing or F1 or golf on the Beeb. There won’t be another Peter O’Sullevan or Murray Walker, or Grandstand or Sportsnight with Coleman. Times have changed. It’s just a fact.

Even when cricket’s abominable Hundred came across the BBC’s landscape, it did so as a self-made joke โ€” a format engineered to be so short that it wouldn’t bore viewers before, say, a rerun of Flog It! As though drawn-out, mouth-watering sporting action couldn’t demand an audience.ย 

Think of Rafa Nadal versus Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final of 2008, a spectacle so spellbinding we would have relished it if it had lasted 10 hours rather than five. Only Wimbledon, thank heavens, and a few ‘Crown Jewels’ survive on the BBC menu.

The BBC’s long-running Question of Sport show has been axed this weekend

England Lionesses goalkeeper Mary Earps is favourite to win the individual SPOTy accolade

As for Sports Personality, how could a sportsman or woman who has scaled the great Everests of their sport โ€” won the titles and medals that define them โ€” need affirmation from a now Tuesday, rather than Sunday, night TV show?

One at least hopes this logic applies in the case of Josh Kerr, the 1500m world champion โ€” a middle-distance heir, in a sense, to Seb Coe and Steve Ovett from a golden age captured on BBC Sport โ€” who is omitted from the shortlist.

One detects too much wokery at work here. This is so prevalent at the Beeb that on Radio Four’s Today programme, Gareth Southgate was referred to as the England men’s head coach, phraseology that was not meant to be enlightening but the sort of politically correct posturing you could live without before breakfast.

Thus, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, winner of a second world heptathlon world title, has taken up athletics’ quota, so bad luck Josh! That is not, by the way, to imply that KJT is included other than by meritorious dint of her own mercurial and often amazing deeds.

Perhaps athletics struggles to hold the allure it once did. Though layering on the irony, it is a sport to which the BBC holds television rights. And it was a more than decent World Championship in Budapest, actually, and perfectly suited for an early-evening audience, which makes Kerr’s snub all the more surprising.

Fellow Lionesses player Beth Mead became the first woman to win the award last year

Team GB’sย Katarina Johnson-Thompson is the award’s athletics nomination after her world championship success in Budapest this year

However, Josh Kerr has missed out despite his stunning achievement in the men’s 1500-metres

Slight favourite for the gong, say the bookies, is Mary Earps, the Lionesses’ goalkeeper, whose greatest fame emanates from her shouting ‘F*** off’ in the World Cup final England lost to Spain.

There is Frankie Dettori, 52, who decided not to retire in the end despite all the fanfare that was made of him at Ascot when racing’s authorities were led to believe he would.ย 

He is seen as a national treasure so not much was said publicly about his volte face, but many in racing, who spent a lot of money preparing his valedictory send-off, were privately pretty annoyed.

Another favourite is Stuart Broad, who was obviously a fine bowler for England over nearly two decades of knee-pumping, Aussie-baiting endeavour (and sun hats off to that!), particularly in bursts when, metaphorically, the sun was on his back. Has anyone better choreographed his departure, or played the star role in the final scene more emphatically?

A six with his last stroke. A wicket with his last ball. His coup de theatre may well yet win the bauble, even if Chris Woakes was the man of a, err, losing Ashes series.

Stuart Broad is another worthy contender for the award after his retirement from cricket

As for Rory McIlroy, is he more worthy of inclusion than Kerr? We know about the Ryder Cup and all that glory, but when did he last win a major?ย 

When Peter Alliss was still at school. Also, did Rory not designate himself Irish for Olympic purposes? Which, to my mind, rather mocks the first B in BBC.

And after the shoddy list, the lack of sport on BBC through the multiplicity of channels there now are, we come to the grandest attention-seeker in the Corporation. Mr Gary Lineker, master of ceremonies.

He has goaded the BBC hierarchy with his tweets about the government’s Rwandan policy in recent days, testing their impartiality rules to snapping point.

Perhaps a more pertinent tweet might promulgate a Sky Sports Personality of the Year. Or an Amazon or Channel 4 one. I’m not really calling for that, God forfend, but would they be any less appropriate?

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