Ok so as a campaign slogan it may not be up there with “Free Deidre Rashid” or “Give Peace a Chance” but the Twitterverse got out their pitchforks and torches and massed at the gates of the BBC to protest the all-male Sport Personality of the Year list this week. In what was deemed a travesty for British sport and a shocking indictment of the inequality that exists in coverage the great and good held court on why it had to be changed.
As a female of the species I thought I’d share my perspective on the situation as other women in sport have done. Apparently we are allowed a voice on this one, it’s about women’s issues not the offside rule.
What the f…?
I saw the announcement of the Sports Personality shortlist on Tweetsport (for all your real-time sports news) and have to say I got to the end and thought “Jessica Ennis won’t need to buy a new dress this year.” I wasn’t surprised or enraged by the men only candidate list. An eyebrow might have been raised if there were rugby players on the list and of course I was disappointed not to see GMac there (I’ll vote for Rory, almost as good) but there have been so few women over the years and so little coverage of women’s sport recently that it didn’t even register as a slight on the achievements of the British women who excel away from the spotlight.
Auntie is a woman
The Beeb or Auntie as some of our older readers will refer to it (alright just Terry Wogan) is supposed to uphold the values of equality in gender, race, age etc. and this was not lost on many. However calls for a women only category should be stamped on early. It’s not tokenism that’s required just an equal shout and that doesn’t mean in terms of awards, it’s about coverage and celebrating achievements. Too often sports stories are negative – corruption, drugs, betting scandals, while good stories go untold. Tanni Grey-Thompson mentioned the stat that only 2% of sport coverage is women’s sport. Without the oxygen of publicity how will women’s sport develop.
It’s an award show people
If it wasn’t about entertainment would there be a Jools Holland style “spontaneous” comments from the audience? The main ire seemed to be aimed at the nominations of Amir Khan and Andy Murray who despite retaining top positions in their respective sports have shown unspectacular form in the past 12 months. Both names have massive pulling power and with Amir there is a chance for a video hook-up if he’s still in the US. Always adds a bit of glamour, even in the age of Skype. Selection based on media profile – surely not!
All publicity is good publicity
Jessica Ennis has come 3rd on two occasions and was the face of women’s sport which is why her name sprang to my mind. If nothing else the controversy has allowed some of the other British women at the top of their game to get coverage they would not have had if they had made it to the shortlist. In an age when we have Medal winning Olympians raising much needed funds by selling kit on eBay so that they can continue in their sport we certainly don’t make it easy for those who achieve at the highest level.
That darts bloke is a bit tasty
Is this really about gender or is it about “minority” sport? Not sure what Phil Taylor has to do to win and it took the massed ranks of the racing fraternity to get McCoy his title. With the BBC losing F1 and other perceived jewels they may have to look to previously unsung sports for coverage. I say open it up to the public and in an X-factor Christmas number 1 scenario we’ll have Eddie the Eagle winning every year. For the record I love Eddie. I heartily recommend the work of @BBCSport_Ollie @NickHopeBBC and @Jess_BBCSport whose coverage of the build-up to London 2012 has put some truly inspiring and determined sportsmen and women in the spotlight. Take a bow.
Legacy, Legacy, Legacy
Body image is often mentioned and nowhere is this more intensely scrutinised than in gym class. As a bit of a curvy lass myself (one giant one which started above my head and finished above my toes) it was a nightmare for me. No layers of dark clothes to hide behind, my hairy legs exposed, I puffed and panted my way round running tracks much to the amusement of my class mates. The women in sport, at any level, can inspire others to overcome their inhibitions and enjoy exercise masquerading as games but not if we don’t see them. We can kick obesity’s ass – a healthy nation, now that’s a legacy to be proud of.
In summary, not important who Gary Linekar gives the trophy to on the night, more important that we see support all year round for sport at all levels.
So that’s my two pennth for what it’s worth, and I didn’t mention shoes or shopping once!