Sports Personality of the Year
Or SPOTY to its friends, if it still has any.
If you care at all about this award, you'll know that Zara Phillips won on Sunday night. She achieved a lot, and was in my top three, although wasn't my favourite. There's obviously a suspicion that the fact that she's 11th in line to throne may have influenced a few voters out there, and although she did enormously well, her horse does deserve half the award in a sport that is by its very nature, enormously elitist.
But can I direct you to the fallout over on the BBC Sports Editors' blog, where there are some very unhappy people. There are always going to be sports that are overlooked, and by upping the shortlist to ten this year, the BBC went some way to including some minority sports on the list - although respondents on that site can name plenty more still overlooked. However, there are some shortcomings with upping the shortlist to ten. The whole Sports Personality of the Year show lasted two hours, so if three minutes was allocated to each contestant, that'd be a quarter of the show. Add in a few reminders of the numbers to call and you're left with not much time to do a review.
There are two obvious things that come out of this:
1) Not every contestant was treated fairly. Zara Phillips for example, got an on-stage interview and clip package of her achievements this year. Beth Tweddle got demonstrate her sport. Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton got lumped together in "boxing". Nicole Cooke had a brief interview at her seat that seemed too concentrate on what it's like falling off her bike. Monty Panesar was profiled moments before the lines closed.
2) The review aspect of the show has been diminished. I think that the show was originally called Sports Review of the Year or something similar, because the awards were a marginal part of the overall reminder of the sporting year which was largely highlights of what has gone on. This element seems to have been lessened and the awards aspect gradually increased with awards (admittedly worthy) to unsung heroes or the Helen Rollason Award. Add together a few fun items and you're really pushed to fit everything into two hours.
SPOTY is always going to be biased towards sports and athletes that people know rather than necessarily the most worthy winners, but I'd suggest that in it's current guise it's not even a fair vote. As some of the commenters on the Sports Editors' Blog mention, even on X Factor everyone gets to sing a song first before the lines are opened for voting. On SPOTY, the lines were open from the start and so even though the end of the show has higher audience figures than the start, anyone who "goes first" with a full interview is likely to do better in the vote than those who get a brief Adrian Chiles interview towards the end; you've had 100 minutes to know about Zara Phillip's achievements, and perhaps 10 minutes to learn of Nicole Cooke's.
I suggest that in future the nominees are gone through in the first half an hour, and the second part of the show is dominated by a review of the year with incidental awards along the way to the other winners. You can keep reminding people of the numbers to text/phone in, but that way it's all fair.
Getting a big audience along in the NEC was a good improvement to the show, and perhaps the BBC felt that it needed to put on a show for those in the audience? But we do need more clips.
I'm still uneasy about David Walliams picking up a Special Award at the event - a couple of nights before he and Matt Lucas no doubt pick up a pile of British Comedy Awards. Yes, he did something that most people couldn't and achieved a very fine time, raising a lot of money for charity along the way, but it still isn't really sport any more than me completing the London Marathon is. Perhaps if I can raise a million quid and get myself a primetime comedy programme, I might be in with a shout. I'll laugh if he gets a special award at the Comedy Awards too!
What all this probably highlights is that there isn't really a really worthy sports award in the UK that's awarded across all the disciplines. Individual sports are undoubtedly well catered for, and there are international awards of varying statures. But what I'd like to see is some kind of British Sports Awards voted for by a jury of journalists or coaches that crosses all sports, but takes the popularity element out of the equation that always affects the SPOTY awards. When the various European Footballer of Year awards are made by foreign sports papers, we know that the judges are knowledgable journalists and suchlike who have little vested interest in just voting for, say, David Beckham because he's not showbiz shy and appears in a million ads.
Most award ceremonies are money making concerns (the BBC's aside), so this wouldn't be an impossible thing to put together.