Belfast Telegraph

Barry McGuigan boycotts BBC Sports awards over snub to Northern Ireland heroes

By Adrian Rutherford and Claire Williamson

The BBC has been accused of class-driven elitism after snubbing Northern Ireland's sporting heroes.

The broadcaster is facing growing anger after none of our athletes made its 16-person shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year. Boxer Carl Frampton led the criticism, and will boycott next month's event in Birmingham.

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The two-weight world champion tore into the BBC on its flagship Radio Ulster morning radio programme, saying the selection was anti-Northern Ireland.

His manager Barry McGuigan - a winner of the Sports Personality of the Year Award - said: "We won't go. We are not going. We are boycotting it."

Swimmer Bethany Firth, a star of the Rio Paralympics, and double world Superbike champion Jonathan Rea were also ignored.

The matter reached the floor of the Stormont Assembly yesterday, with First Minister Arlene Foster branding it "scandalous".

And DUP MP Sammy Wilson said it was clear evidence of the BBC's "elitism".

"I just wonder has any of this got to do with the fact that Carl is a working-class Protestant boy from Northern Ireland, and that doesn't fit into the BBC storyline?" he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"That was my first reaction. It smacks of elitism."

A BBC spokesperson 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."

Frampton told The Nolan Show he would have been on the shortlist had he been English. The Tigers Bay fighter won the WBA title by beating previously undefeated Mexican Leo Santa Cruz in New York this summer.

It made him the first boxer from Northern Ireland to win world titles at two different weights.

McGuigan told the Belfast Telegraph: "I'm very disappointed with the BBC.

"I think it was remiss of them to take Frampton out of the mix, when they've double the amount of people who are main candidates, and still left him out, it is shocking, it really is. It's a major mistake from them."

The awards take place in Birmingham on December 18. But McGuigan said they will not be there. Speaking in Belfast at a Press conference ahead of his January rematch with Santa Cruz, Frampton added: "I believe that I did enough last year to be in the running.

"Andy Murray will run away with it, I'm not disputing that, he deserves it as well.

"It would have been nice to be nominated, considering it was extended as well.

"The BBC aren't great with the boxing, they've fallen out of love with it a bit. I think that maybe the fact I'm from Northern Ireland."

Sports Minister Paul Givan last night wrote to the head of BBC Sport. He told Barbara Slater he was "extremely surprised and disappointed at the significant oversight in the absence of athletes from Northern Ireland" and urged her to reconsider adding Frampton, Firth and Rea.

The First Minister said 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."

Rea is a two-time world Superbike champion while Firth was Team GB's most decorated Paralympian at Rio.

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

Rea, meanwhile, said he was more concerned with winning trophies on the track.

"As much as it's an honour to potentially be recognised in amongst the best in the business from other sports, my main goal is to win races and championships in my own sport," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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