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Face off: does it matter that no women feature on the Sports Personality of 2012 list?

Posted at 5:15 pm, December 11, 2011 in News
Perri Shakes-Drayton

The nominees for BBC Sports Personality of the Year have been revealed but the ten names all belong to men. With our athletes in the spotlight as the 2012 Olympics approach, does it matter that no women feature on the list?

Tim Woodhouse, head of policy at Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation

‘We’re obviously very disappointed that none of the women who have won world championships this year has made it to the shortlist. People including triathlete Chrissie Wellington and swimmer Keri-Anne Payne performed brilliantly and we think deserve places on the list. But it’s probably a sad reflection on the way the list is nominated. ‘The BBC has named the 27 publications who submitted their nominations for the award. If you take out the votes from Nuts and Zoo then we think – using the stats on the BBC website – that Rebecca Adlington would have made the shortlist. ‘We’re not sure why the BBC didn’t ask a dedicated sports magazine such as Sportsister to nominate names. Sportsister would obviously give a  much more balanced and representative view. The BBC should work with us to find a way to review the process for next year. Traditionally it has been newspapers and magazines that have voted, but this may no longer be the only way to do it because of the huge presence sport has online. One suggestion would be to ask some previous award-winners to have a say; when the Oscars are chosen, previous winners get a vote. If people such as Dame Kelly Holmes gave their view it would hopefully lead to a more representative selection. ‘I don’t think the list of contenders for the 2011 BBC Sports  Personality of the Year is a true reflection of sporting achievement. The 2012 Olympics will provide a window of  opportunity to raise the profile of women and therefore I imagine they will get into the next shortlist. But we want to  ensure the process works every year whether there is an Olympics or not.’

Simon Caney, editor-in-chief of Sport Magazine

‘It’s just unfortunate this year that there are no women on the list. There are also no disabled athletes and they have had an excellent year, though there hasn’t been the same outcry. ‘The list is made up from the opinion of 27 publications and that’s a fair and democratic way of doing it. The worst thing that could happen is that we have some kind of positive discrimination. The idea that you feel forced to include a female athlete or a disabled athlete would be more insulting. ‘In defence of the magazines who put this list together, there aren’t many mags out there that cover sport on a regular basis. And Nuts and Zoo, whatever you think about them, cover sport on a weekly basis. You could argue for a lot of titles to
be included: the Racing Post should have a vote, for example. It is primarily a horse-racing newspaper but has 12-14 pages of other sport every single day. The issue is not gender-related but sport-related. In the lead up to the Olympics we take great interest in rowing, sailing, cycling, taekwondo and canoeing. In non-Olympics years we take no interest in those sports at all. ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman in the boat or on the bike. Chrissie Wellington won the Ironman Triathlon four times on the trot – she should have been shortlisted. But by the same token Alistair Brownlee, the world triathlon champion, wasn’t nominated either. It’s just a blind spot regarding triathlon type events. ‘It’s not that we ignore women three years out of four, it’s that unfortunately we ignore the great British sports three years out of four.’

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