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Carl Frampton BBC Sports Personality awards omission a scandal: First Minister Arlene Foster

Carl Frampton slams 'anti-Northern Ireland' award

By Jonny Bell

First Minister Arlene Foster has branded the BBC's omission of Carl Frampton and other Northern Ireland sporting stars as a scandal.

The broadcaster extended its shortlist for the annual awards in light of the past Olympic year. However, despite this there was no room for history-making Carl Frampton or indeed Superbikes champion Jonathan Rea or the most decorated paralympian at this year's Games Bethany Firth.

There was no place for anyone from Northern Ireland.

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

Speaking in the Assembly, she 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."

Frampton blasted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year "anti-Northern Ireland" after he missed out on the extended shortlist for this year's award.

The history-making Belfast fighter said either he or fellow Northern Ireland champions, Superbike title holder Jonathan Rea or Paralympian Bethany Firth should have made the shortlist, which was increased in size given the past Olympic year.

The 29-year-old was speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan radio show on Tuesday morning following the announcement on Monday night.

Frampton said: "I think there are people on the shortlist that I deserve to be in front of.

"Credit to Andy Murray he deserves it and should run away with it.

"But I think of at least one of Jonny Rea, Bethany Firth and myself should have been on it."

Asked what he thought the reasons were behind his omission, he responded: "It looks to me, maybe anti-boxing, maybe anti-Northern Ireland."

"There's five Yorkshiremen on it."

Speaking to the BBC, Cyclone Promotions boss and Frampton manager Barry McGuigan said he too was miffed at the champion's exclusion.

He labelled the omission of Belfast boxer and history maker as a "shocking oversight".

"If he wins American boxing writers' fighter of the year, it will be such an embarrassment for the BBC.

"There's no point crying about it now. But it was shocking."

He added: "It looks - I hope it's not - but it looks anti-professional boxing.

"Frampton has been monumental this year and they've just disregarded that and it's shocking and upsetting for me as a former winner.

"He went out to America, he beat a three-weight division world champion - an unbeaten three-weight world champion - in his own country. He unified the title in February at super bantamweight.

"How can you ignore that?"

Jonathan Rea this year celebrated winning back-to-back World Superbike titles. Bethany Firth was the most decorated athlete in Rio winning three golds and a silver in Rio. She missed out ahead of three other Paralympians.

Of the 16 shortlisted - the biggest shortlist in the award's history - only two are from outside England. Scotland's world tennis number one Andy Murray and Real Madrid and Wales footballer Gareth Bale.

And only Bale and Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy are the only non-Olympians or Paralympians on the list.

Frampton said he was convinced if he was English he would be on the list.

He said: "I think they look favourably toward them.

"Take Nicola Adams she has had an incredible achievement this year. And if she made the list, then I think I should have been in with a shout."

Frampton said he was "slightly disappointed" with missing out on a nomination.

He continued: "I unified a title, defended a title and beat a three-weight champion, and all on the road.

"But I'll not complain, I wasn't picked for whatever reason, maybe they didn't have the space."

The North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said he was attempting to summon BBC chiefs to parliament to explain the decision to omit Northern Ireland sporting stars.

He also said both Rory Best and Rory McIlroy deserved to be included on the shortlist.

"This is a serious omission," said the DUP MP.

Frampton takes on Leo Santa Cruz in a WBA Super World Featherweight title rematch next year in Las Vegas. Previously he unified the WBA and IBF super-bantamweight titles.

He described the city and the MGM Grand venue as the "pinnacle" of boxing.

And despite the event being just three hours from Santa Cruz's home, the Jackal's support "will take over".

In response the BBC highlighted that the award was held in Belfast last year and boxer Nicola Adams is in this year's shortlist.

In a statement, the corporation 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."

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