BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Letter sent to the BBC today

I would like to make a few points about last night’s Sports
Personality of the Year. I think you would agree that this programme is important and iconic and is now a traditional part of the Christmas schedule. It is also a celebration of sport. It creates heroes and role models for our young people. And it showcases young sports people, as well as ordinary people who devote their lives to sport. In short it is a hugely influential programme with the power to inspire and excite.

So I’d like to know why the BBC thought it appropriate and adequate to run a section on the programme devoted to women’s sport which lasted 40 seconds? 40 seconds!? On women’s sport? Out of a two hour long programme? I could forgive the lazy use of the tired old phrase ‘girl power’ if it was at least giving something substantial on women’s achievements. But it did not.

This section of the programme perfectly illustrated the BBC’s attitude to women’s sport. It is second in line to men’s. It is unimportant. It can be shoved into a special little section of the programme which lasts just moments. It is not even worth talking about. (None of the women featured got to speak. Many of them weren’t even named. Although they were patronisingly all referred to as ‘golden girls’.)

Just to top things off, the section at the end which so poignantly
celebrates the lives of sportsmen who have died in the year – well sadly I can say sportsmen because there wasn’t a single woman included in this section. Have no sportswomen of note died this year? Really? I don’t believe you. Or is it just that their lives are not worthy of being celebrated in the same way as the men’s?

Let me see if I can guess what your response to my points will be:

1. Women’s sport just isn’t as exciting as men’s, hence it doesn’t
attract the interest that men’s sports get.

Really? Do you think all of the women around the country who regularly take part in all kinds of sports think this? Do Jessica Ennis or Amy Williams think this? In the US women’s soccer is huge and draws in massive crowds as well as sponsorship and investment. Without giving exposure to women’s sport (which is as competitive and as exciting as men’s) then it will continue to be sidelined, underfunded and thought of as second best.

2. Our women haven’t been all that successful this year – the show only focuses on success

Have our women’s national cricket, rugby, hockey and football teams not recently all had incredible success? Shouldn’t we be celebrating this? Our footballers and rugby players reached the finals of the world cups for goodness sake! Where were they last night? They were completely invisible.

(Mind you we were treated to a long sequence about how awful the men’s football team were this year! What an injustice and an insult to our national women’s team.)

3. It doesn’t matter because both men and women enjoy watching men’s sport

It does matter. Women’s participation in sport is on the decline.
Girls need to be encouraged to take part in sport. They need role
models. They need to see what success in sport looks like and they need to be inspired. Last night’s show only showcased two women in two hours. If women’s sport doesn’t get the exposure it deserves then it will continue to be an after thought. The BBC has a responsibility to its audience and it must lead the way in ensuring that women are given the air time they deserve.

Finally, I think it’s sad that only two women were shortlisted for the award. And the team of the year shortlist included no women at all (see above re the Rugby and Football teams).
Does your team of 30 expert sport editors know and understand anything about women’s sport? I’d be interested to know how many women were on that shortlisting panel?

I look forward to hearing from you with a response

Yours sincerely

Emma Moore

I await their response with baited breath

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18 responses to “BBC Sports Personality of the Year

  1. whoop whoop! well said.

  2. Lots of good points. For me, I do generally find men’s sport more exciting and so would, generally, be more interested in watching men’s sport – but I can think of two reasons for this that can be tackled.

    Firstly, I know more about men’s sport and so the personalities and stories keep my attention more easily. News of women’s sport needs to be dripped into our consciousness more so that, when the BBC shows a women’s football match the casual viewer has heard of the players and knows about the progress of the team. I tried watching England women play against Switzerland on TV earlier this year, there were some cracking moments, just like any men’s football match, but I just couldn’t keep watching to the end.

    Secondly, men’s sport is usually more competitive at the top level and so more exciting. But this is only the knock on effect of more boys and men doing sport at grassroots level. And one of the best ways to inspire girls and women to take up grassroots sport is to inspire them by showing the success of women during programs like Sports Personality.

    Great that you contacted BBC about this…..

  3. Thanks for highlighting this. I don’t know if you will recall this, but a few years ago Nicole Cooke who is an absolute cycling legend was in the running. She was interviewed by Adrian Chiles. He asked her, as an elite top of her sport on a global scale cyclist, whether she scrapped her knees when she fell off.

  4. Well said Pinkstinks. I would love for my son to be as aware of the brilliant and talented sportswomen out there, as he is of their male counterparts. Right now he just thinks men’s sport is better. I fear if I had a daughter she’d probably think the same

  5. Fantastic letter. Thank you for taking the time to write this. It is very hard to motivate girls to take up and enjoy sports with no role models. I am going to make an effort to follow the womens teams and try to motivate my girls.

  6. Hi, thought this was a well-written article! I also think gender perceptions in sport is a huge problem.

    The concept that the ‘most exciting’ sportspeople or sports in general will rise to the top unfortunately is heavily weighted towards incumbants. As much women’s sport is somewhat more recent then men’s (largely down to social reasons, gender roles in past times etc.) it is obviously more difficult for sports like women’s football, rugby, cricket.

    I personally know a lot of women who play these sports at grassroots level, and genuinely think that time will start to redress the issue. However, in the meantime people such as yourself poking the lumbering beast that is the BBC can’t hurt :)

    Please don’t bait your breath- sounds really painful. Things will get better, it’s not worth taking such extreme actions…

    I’ll get me coat…

  7. Pingback: Would you believe? | Someday I Will Treat You Good

  8. Good points here – the main problem is that more men than women participate in sport and this is obviously something that needs to be addressed, so well done in showing how women in sport need to be promoted! Girls need role models apart in all walks of life – the programme did not take advantage of how many superb female athletes we have. We’re really proud of them – let’s demonstrate it!

  9. I lived in New Zealand for two years. Their approach to sport is no where near so gender specific as it is here in the UK. Netball is played in mixed teams and women’s sport is considered equally as entertaining as men’s. When it comes to sport for women I feel ashamed to be English. Thank you for speaking up for us.

  10. Here are some notable sportswomen who died between last year’s SPOTY and this year’s.

    14 February English Cricketer and Administrator Audrey Collins OBE died. She appeared in one test before WWII but was Secretary and then Chairman of the Women’s Cricket Association from 1984-94. She was one of the first ten women members of the Mayrlebone Cricket Club when it lifted its male only policy in 1999. The day after her death the English team on tour in India wore black arm bands and both teams observed a minutes silence in her honour.

    14 March Janet Simpson who won a bronze medal at the 1964 Olympics with Mary Rand, Daphne Arden and Dorothy Hyman in the 4 x 100ms. She also won a European gold in 1969 in the 4 x 400m setting a world record of 3.30.8 with Rosemary Stirling, Pat Lowe and Lillian Board.

    29 April Audrey Williamson athlete and silver medalist in the last London Olympics in 1948 over 200m.

  11. Patric McGuinness

    I really wish there were more things that can be done to turn this whole mess of a country around and find an equal balance with the female/male thing,but i am saddened to see that still,all these years have passed and still this whole country is dominated by arrogant/egotistical/self centered men at the helm, no wonder we are in such a mess! I am sometimes ashamed to be male living in this society i really am/I feel no matter how many letters/strikes/revolts are had, it will be like pulling teeth to change.

  12. A quick update on this. I have now phoned the BBC 3 times to find out where the response is. Today they told me that the drafted response was being sent to London for approval. I guess they want to get this one right. It’s been weeks and weeks. Not impressed really. But we shall see what they come up with and I will not be letting this one go.

  13. Too right – as the mum of a very sporty girl and a football hating boy, my kids love defying the stereotypes.

  14. I was also outraged by the coverage in Sports Personality and wrote to the BBC to complain. I was particularly annoyed by the fact that they didn’t mention one woman in their round up of who died last year. In their reply to me they said I hadn’t mentioned anyone specifically. So I did a quick google search and found quite a few really interesting, high achieving sportswomen who died in 2011. It only took me about 45 mins so obviously they can’t even be bothered to spend that time to find the unacknowledged female athletes who could be role models for young girls today.

  15. Oops I meant who’d died in 2010. Sorry.

  16. Katharine Eifion-Wynne

    Would love to see where this one goes. I have a six year old daughter who loves sport (especially running and football), but am having a tough time persuading her (and her male classmates) that the ambition of wanting to play in the world cup is not ridiculous. When she’s being sniggered for saying this I point out that it’s more likely to happen for her as a girl, as their team is much less rubbish than the boys. And then everyone looks at me like I’m mad.

  17. Katharine Eifion-Wynne

    Would love to see where this one goes. I have a six year old daughter who loves sport (especially running and football), but am having a tough time persuading her (and her male classmates) that the ambition of wanting to play in the world cup is not ridiculous. When she’s being sniggered at for suggesting this, I point out that it’s more likely to happen for her as a girl, as their team is much less rubbish than the boys. And then everyone looks at me like I’m mad.

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