Belfast Telegraph

Carl Frampton has BBC on ropes over Sports Personality award snub

Absence of double world champion Frampton, Paralympic multi-gold medallist Bethany Firth and back-to-back Superbike hero Jonathan Rea from SPOTY shortlist a glaring example of broadcaster's arrogance, writes Jim Gracey.

What did the BBC expect when it  foolishly hit a hyped-up Carl Frampton below the belt? In boxing and broadcasting timing is everything, and the Beeb could not have picked a worse moment to disrespect the achievements of our undisputed people's world champion.

The Beeb's decision-makers deserved to ship every one of the blows that rained down on them over the astonishing oversight that meant not just Carl, but at least two other genuine Northern Ireland contenders, were not considered worthy of inclusion on this year's shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.

Typically, Carl didn't miss and hit the wall as he weighed in on The Nolan Show, his studied and considered response echoing the thoughts of his outraged fan base and the Northern Ireland sporting public at large, all the way up to First Minister Arlene Foster.

Before you could say seconds out, the Beeb was reeling under the twin blows of Carl's withering condemnation, branding it "anti-Northern Ireland" and "anti-boxing".

"If I'd been English I'd have made the list," continued Carl on the front foot with the Beeb now on the ropes.

And then came the coup de grace, self-inflicted, with the Beeb, in its myopia, left exposed and laying bare the increasing irrelevance of its once-coveted and meaningful gong.

In that respect some might think Carl came across more annoyed than he ought to have been by the omission.

But the slight was just what Carl needed on the day he came face to face again with his old adversary Leo Santa Cruz as they began the drive to sell tickets for their January 28 rematch in Las Vegas.

Nothing whips up a boxing crowd more than a sense of injustice or grievance visited upon their man.

Carl seized the moment and hit the spot, but was probably more accurate in his post-Press conference summation when he dismissed the Beeb's snub as water off a duck's back. And so it should be.

SPOTY (even the acronym is faintly ridiculous) is not the great honour it was back in the day when the Beeb ruled over the televisual world sporting landscape; the nation tuned in to be transfixed by the only show in town on that eagerly-awaited Sunday night in December, and our own dear Dame Mary Peters accepted her award as 1972 Olympic pentathlon gold medal winner, receiving the trophy from the previous holder, Princess Anne, with the now-famous observation: "Hasn't she kept it clean?"

There was no anti-Northern Ireland agenda then, nor even last year when the show pitched up at the Odyssey needing to sell tickets and glad of the City Council and Tourism NI funding.

Lots of Northern Ireland faces on the red carpet that night. No room at the inn this time.

As for anti-boxing? Anti any kind of sport that isn't shown on the BBC would be closer to the truth.

SPOTY and its appeal has shrunk as more and more major sporting events forsake the Beeb for the more lucrative slots on the satellite channels.

The programme is now a BBC-backslapping beanfeast. At least five of the 12 judges are employed by the Corporation, and if it cannot drop the pretence that it is all-encompassing, it had best fold its tent and go. Few would miss the event.

The question has to be asked: how could any truly representative indicator of sporting brilliance in 2016, at world and Olympic level, overlook the claims of Frampton, first Northern Ireland boxer to win world boxing titles in two different weight divisions?

Or those of Ballyclare biker Jonathan Rea, Britain's first back-to-back World Superbike champions since cult figure Carl Fogarty in 1998-99?

And gallant young swimmer Bethany Firth, winner of three gold and one silver medal in the Rio Paralympic pool?

Bethany, in particular, has been badly mitigated against, with her sport one of the few still actually being shown on the BBC.

You could even make a case for magnificent, modest Rory Best, a leader by example in, by common consent, Irish rugby's finest year, winning his 100th cap to boot.

But this is the BBC, dwelling in an ivory tower built from your money and mine and clearly still not high enough to see over the parapet to the far reaches of the sporting kingdom.

Whether by accident or design, the Beeb's short-sighted decision not to recognise the valid claims of a single decorated Northern Ireland sportsman or women has further damaged the shrinking credibility of the SPOTY brand.

Has there ever been a more glaring example of the arrogance of national BBC and its over-inflated view of its own place in the world sporting pantheon?

Every one of this year's 16 nominees is worthy of recognition, no doubt about that.

It's those who have been glaringly left out that have fuelled the controversy, and you do wonder if it is, indeed, manufactured to whip up interest in a fading concept.

Neither Carl, Jonathan, Bethany nor Rory should or would take the oversight personally.

Look at Chris Froome, who sweated blood to win the Tour de France, before adding an Olympic medal and a second place in the Spanish La Vuelta, and still didn't warrant a place.

Yet, the list somehow includes Jamie Vardy, who wasn't even Leicester City's best player, and Gareth Bale, whose gallant Wales side were not even winners.

SPOTY is no longer an honest reflection of the best of British sport.

It has lost its appeal to the extent the likely winner, Andy Murray, will not be in Birmingham to collect the award on December 18, having already indicated his indifference by deciding to remain in Florida for more important warm weather winter training.

As for Carl, he has never been counted out in a glittering and progressing career. But that's now going to happen, not against Leo Santa Cruz, but when the BBC invite drops on his doormat.

  • Jim Gracey is group sports editor of the Belfast Telegraph

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