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Boxer Carl Frampton asks if Sports Personality of the Year anti-Northern Ireland

Published 29/11/2016

Boxer Carl Frampton with his MBE medal awarded by the Duke of Cambridge
Boxer Carl Frampton with his MBE medal awarded by the Duke of Cambridge

World champion boxer Carl Frampton has questioned whether the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year is "anti-Northern Ireland" after he and other local stars were omitted from the award's shortlist.

The Belfast fighter, who in 2016 unified super bantamweight world titles before moving up a division to win a featherweight world title, claimed he would have been selected on the 16-strong list if he was English.

Frampton's remarks came as Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley vowed to raise concerns around the absence of Northern Ireland nominees at Westminster.

As well as a regional basis, Frampton suggested the selection was also potentially "anti-boxing".

He asked why two-time world Superbike champion Jonathan Rea from Co Antrim and Team GB's most decorated paralympian at Rio, Bethany Firth, were also omitted.

Paralympians who won fewer medals in Brazil than the Co Down swimmer's haul of three golds and a silver did make the 16.

"I feel like I should have got on but Johnny Rea also had a shout, Bethany Firth as well also had a shout," said Frampton.

"And I think maybe what it looks to me is maybe anti-boxing, maybe anti-Northern Ireland, who knows?

"But listen, I am not going to cry about it and I'll get on with my career."

Frampton became the first boxer from Northern Ireland to win world titles at two different weights when he beat previously undefeated Mexican Leo Santa Cruz in New York in the summer.

That featherweight victory came after he defeated England's Scott Quigg in Manchester in February to unify two super bantamweight world titles.

In an interview with BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show, Frampton said he believed tennis star Andy Murray would be the clear winner of the award, but he said he still deserved to be among the nominees.

"I am slightly disappointed, I think, especially as they extended the list and there was no space for me," he said.

"I unified a title and I moved up and beat a three weight world champion - both fights on the road as well.

"But I'm not going to complain about that. I didn't get picked for whatever reason. I feel there are people on that list that I deserve to be on in front of."

North Antrim MP Mr Paisley has tabled an early day motion on the issue in the Commons.

In response to the furore, a BBC spokeswoman said: "In what has been an extraordinary year of sport, many contenders were considered and debated by an expert industry panel, who by consensus agreed on the shortlist."

The issue was also raised on the floor of the Stormont Assembly.

When asked for her thoughts concerning the lack of Northern Irish-born sports stars on the shortlist, the region's First Minister replied: "She is not amused."

Arlene Foster also said Executive colleagues intended to challenge BBC management, adding that she believed there was a problem with the judging panel.

Mrs Foster said: "I think it is absolutely scandalous that someone of Carl Frampton's ability, and indeed a double world champion, should be excluded.

"Another man who should have been thought of as well is Jonathan Rea, who again is a double world champion.

"What about Bethany Firth?

"And, indeed what about Michael McGovern, that man from Fermanagh who did sterling work for the Northern Ireland team during the Euros.

"I think there is a huge hole in relation to the Sports Personality of the Year, despite the fact that they have increased from 12 to 16, they have managed to leave out some of the very special sporting stars from Northern Ireland."

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