BBC’s Sports-MAN of the Year


The list of nominees for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2011, was released this week and not one woman has been nominated. What kind of message is this sending about our attitude towards female athletes, especially ahead of the Olympics next year? Of course there has been an array of exceptional performances by both men and women this year, yet it is the women who have not been recognised. 

BBC Sports Personality of the Year has had the same nominations process since 2006, whereby a panel of 27 sports editors, from top national and regional publications all have 10 votes each. This makes up 270 votes, and how many went to female athletes? An astounding 21, which is less than 10%.  These are our supposed media experts, whose job it is to report all sports news, how can they not know of enough female athletes to vote for?

Tanni Grey Thompson stated ‘I think you just have to look at where the nominations have come from and that highlights another problem really- only 2% of media coverage in sport goes to women,’ this is extremely low and therefore sportswomen apparently just aren’t on the minds of these editors.

If you look at where the votes came from, publications were chosen which had good sports coverage throughout the year, hail Nuts and Zoo. These magazines don’t cover any other sport other than ‘footy,’ and what they know about sport other than this, could probably be written in one black hexagon on a football. If magazines targeted at an all male audience can vote for this competition then surely magazines aimed at women should have a say too, maybe Cosmopolitan, and having said that then Sportsister and She Kicks which focus on women’s sport should almost definitely be included.

Keri Anne Payne, (2nd from left) opening Westfield

If the nominations are based on personality then I’d be interested to know why so many sports editors deem Andy Murray a contender. Anyone who has seen an interview with the tennis player will probably know that he has enough personality to fill one of the tiny squares between strings in his tennis racket.

So why has open water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne not been nominated? She recently made an appearance to open Westfield shopping mall and is described as having a natural media friendly presence whilst increasing the profile of open water swimming.

Not only that, but she was the first athlete of the year to secure her place at next year’s Olympics. If not Payne then why not number one female jockey, Hayley Turner who was described by the Guardian as a ‘popular presence at any racecourse?’

If it is a question of strength then 4 times Iron Woman Champion Chrissie Wellington has more than enough to warrant a nomination. This year she smashed the Ironman World Record and finished 8thoverall.

Chrissie Wellington

And what about Taekwondo World Champion Sarah Stevenson, who won gold at the World Championships in Korea of this year, just two weeks after finding out that both her parents were suffering from terminal cancer. Both her parents have since passed away and she has an incredibly tough personal battle to fight on the road to the Olympics next year.

Perhaps it is a question of winning International competitions? But if that’s the case then rower Kath Grainger landing the 6th world title of her career, this year is apparently not enough, and neither is swimmer Rebecca Adlington’s haul of  2 Olympic Golds, 2 World Championship Golds, one of which she won this year and 2 Commonwealth Gold medals.

Kath Grainger celebrates her 4th World Championship wi


Lord Coe acknowledges that “we have had Rebecca Adlington winning a world title in the world swimming championships, [and]we have had other women world champions this year too, “ but why weren’t they voted for?

I personally would like to thank all the sports editors who voted, for their ignorance regarding women in sport, not just because it has caused the BBC to review their voting system for Sports Personality of the Year. But also because it has raised questions about why female athletes have not been voted for and provoked reactions from top sportsmen and women which may not have occurred had a couple of women made the shortlist. Thus it also raises issues about how little media coverage goes to women’s sport. It’s true that this has come about at an especially important time; I’m hoping that Olympians, male and female will be heralded equally for their achievements.

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I come from South West London and am studying English at Southampton. I am interested in journalism and considering it as a career after my degree. I have interests in Sports and Music and have written for a sports magazine called Sportsister before. I am keen to get involved in as much as possible whilst at Uni and writing about my experiences could be a very rewarding thing. :)

Discussion2 Comments

  1. avatar

    This is such an important issue to raise awareness, women in sports need far more recognition and to be taken more seriously.

    Hopefully the outrage at this years lack of women nominees will change some minds.

    The women you’ve suggested sound incredibly talented, strong and important role models. Well done, great article 🙂

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