Belfast Telegraph

BBC weren't boxing clever with Tyson Fury's SPOTY nomination

By Lindy McDowell

Tyson Fury - as names for champion boxers go you'd be hard pressed to come up with better. And it isn't even a stage name. It's his real name. Not only that but Tyson II is a proud member of the Travelling community, descended from a long line of what he calls gypsy fighting legends and the man who against all predictions, if not all the odds, has recently, dramatically, won the world heavyweight boxing championship.

So far this has the makings of a feel-good movie.

So no wonder that immediately after Fury's victory, the Beeb was off the starting blocks, faster than Mo Farah in pursuit of a Quorn burger, in order to shortlist him for its Sports Personality Of The Year award.

An award that is always hotly contested, if not always oozing with that elusive component "personality".

Never mind that, as this paper has exclusively revealed, the judges did not hold a second meeting to approve Fury's late shortlisting.

The thinking seems to be that Fury would give the awards show (coming this year from Belfast) a bit of added oomph. He has family connections with this part of the world. In a shortlist which bizarrely includes not one of our impressive local sporting stars, he would be as close as it gets to a hometown contender.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as we all now know - two words - Tyson Fury.

The 6ft 9ins champ, who has some previous in terms of homophobic nastiness, gave an interview linking homosexuality and abortion with paedophilia.

As if that wasn't bad enough, he later added in some thoughts on gender equality. To sum up crudely, a woman's place he feels is in the kitchen and/or "on her back".

Needless to say, had he been in the running for Sports Personality Of The Year 1815 such views might not generally have been seen as an impediment. But in 2015 the backlash was both immediate and pretty much inevitable.

Within a few days, a petition had reeled in tens of thousands of furious signatories demanding that Fury be dropped from SPOTY. Typically, Fury dismissed these petitioners as 70,000 examples of a word that I can't use in a family newspaper.

However, he also conceded in an online posting that even he did not consider himself to be much of what he called "a roll model".

Here in Northern Ireland the depressing, added irony in all this is that we have a wealth of local sports stars - not least world champion boxer Carl Frampton - who, despite outstanding achievement and being exemplary role models, have inexplicably been left off the BBC shortlist.

Perhaps they just weren't English enough ...

If there is any humour in the Fury farce it is the thought of the piously, politically correct Beeb, through its own doing, now finding itself faced with the prospect of boxing's Alf Garnett winning its most prestigious sporting gong.

But should Fury be censored out of the show? Of course not. However offensive most people will find his comments, we still have to defend freedom of expression.

Whether he should win the title is another matter. Hopefully not. As role models go Fury is just way too Neanderthal.

In fairness though, it's doubtful he's alone in this. The difference is that in sport today where sponsorship is the ultimate big payer, even the gobbier stars have the wit to know (most of them anyway) that they need to play a savvier game in interviews and public utterances.

But that particular lucrative penny doesn't seem to have dropped with the new world champ.

The Beeb though, is the real loser here. It may have felt it was boxing clever to suddenly shortlist big-mouthed Tyson.

It has spectacularly underestimated public fury.

When the Saints go marching in...

The perfectly logical example of one-upmanship in celeb name calling ... Kim and Kanye have called their baby boy Saint. A few notches up the pecking order, I think you'll agree, from Prince and Princess.

How can other pop parents ever top that? Archangel has, I suppose, a certain ring to it.

In fairness to Mr and Mrs Kanye, as a Twitter poster points out: "They called their daughter North West, did you really think they'd call their son Kevin?"

But the worry is that, as these things tend to do, Saint may now be picked up by less stellar families.

We'll be coming down with wee local Saints. Saints preserve us.

Oh what a tangled web celebs weave

TV's I'm a Celeb has sparked controversy after contestant Ferne McCann was challenged to eat a spider as one of the "trials." She did. In return for a roast chicken dinner.

What seems to have particularly unsettled some viewers is that it was quite a big spider.

Other smaller spiders may have been killed in the same series but that has provoked little protest. Couldn't Ferne just have refused?

There was, after all, only one night to go before she'd be back in the contestants' luxury hotel. She could have done without dinner.

Thus sparing the life not just the spider but also, potentially, the poor hen.

Belfast Telegraph


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