Why does rugby get such lit­tle love from SPOTY?

The Rugby Paper - - Aviva Premiership -

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.

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