Harty on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year

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BACK in the day when the channel was at the forefront of sports broadcasting, the annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year award truly was a blue riband event and testimony to this was the roster of winners.

Nowadays, while still a popular event, it’s a pale shadow of its former self – almost certainly due to the ever decreasing amount of quality live sport on the Beeb.

Some years ago, the corporation embarked on a process which enhanced the concept of the phone vote by releasing a shortlist of contenders for the top award, with the relevant phone lines in order for viewers to vote for their chosen candidate.

Aside from the obvious, phone line income, it also scuppered any chance of block voting affecting the outcome. I recall during my time on the radio being told of the story in the days of the good old fashioned postal vote back in 1991 when there was a sustained campaign from anglers the length and breadth of the country to vote for a popular fisherman of the time, Bob Nudd.

He was barely known outside the fishing world and there was clearly serious concern from BBC management as the campaign gathered momentum. However, any voting slip emanating from the Angling Times, which had printed voting forms in the paper, was discounted and athlete Liz McColgan took the title.

Having seen the final 12 for this year, while I’m taking nothing away from the obvious array of talent and their respective achievements, I think the BBC have almost questioned the credibility of their own event.

In an Ashes winning summer, to have no cricket representation in the final 12 sportsmen, especially in light of Jimmy Anderson’s individual achievement in becoming the first English bowler to take 400 Test wickets, almost beggars belief. That is until you take into account that the BBC don’t broadcast live cricket anymore.

They do broadcast tennis, however, and so it probably comes as no surprise that Andy Murray is the hot favourite with the bookies for the title. Then again, the Beeb still broadcast football, and lots of it. But Wales’s qualification for a major tournament for the first time since 1958, and specifically the contribution of their stand-out player, Gareth Bale, has like the Ashes triumph gone unrecognised when putting together the final shortlist of the SPOTY candidates.

Of the final 12, I would put both Anderson and Bale on the same level as the big four, the aforementioned Murray, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Lewis Hamilton and Tyson Fury, who will, failing a huge scandal, make up the top four on the night.

Actually, take Fury out of the equation, because despite his historic victory in Germany and his capturing of the World Heavyweight Championship, the telecom gods will dictate this is one crown he won’t wear, partly due to his persona but possibly more because the other three take part in three sports still broadcast live on the BBC.

All in all, it represents the night being a pale shadow of its former self, because in my opinion it’s more about who the men in grey suits want to put in their own personal shop window.

For my part, if I had to name a top three, and then pick an eventual winner, for the reasons outlined previously I would put Anderson and Bale in it, and had it not been for his verbal gaffes, Tyson Fury would join them. He is clearly a personality but is he one the Beeb wants to be seen to be promoting?

So with Fury not making the cut, and the fact you never see a bookie on a bike, look no further than Andy Murray, who will walk away with his second title in three years.

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