Why does rugby get such little love from SPOTY?
THERE was much groaning and cursing in rugby circles earlier in the week at the complete lack of rugby representation in the 12-strong shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, despite rugby making quite a splash during 2017,
Somewhere along the line you might have expected Maro Itoje and Owen Farell – who starred in both England’s retention of the Six Nations and Saracens defending their European Cup crown before helping the Lions draw the series in New Zealand – might have featured. But no.
We shouldn’t really be surprised. SPOTY has to tick all sorts of PC boxes these days so that many of the mainstream stars who wow us all year seem to get missed off while it has, in any case, never been very rugby friendly despite it being one of the few sports the BBC has always covered in some form.
Only once in its 63 year history has a rugby player ever won SPOTY – Jonny Wilkinson in 2003, below, when frankly there really was no other choice, apart from Martin Johnson who came second.
Elsewhere it has been a virtual desert with just a handful of podiums.
When Wales won the 1971 Grand Slam and the Lions wiped New Zealand, Barry John was third behind winner Princess Anne. When Willie John led the ‘74 Lions to success he was third behind European 5000m winner Brendan Foster.
When Will Carling led England to a drought breaking 1991 Grand Slam and the World Cup final he was runner up to Liz McColgan, and Leigh Halfpenny was runner up in 2013. And er, that’s it.
And I don’t buy the old team sport argument, that is deflects from individual stardom. Football has had five winners and 20 podiums in total, cricket four winners and ten podiums.