BBC Sports Personality of the Year – by Helen Donohoe

The annual sports personality of the year awards always throws open for me that persistent wound that I have, shaped around the remaining bastion of protectionism and barriers to women and girls – sport.
I’m a passionate sportswoman, more a follower now than a participant, but forever a vehement advocate. So it hurts even further to see, hear and experience the shocking barriers and prejudices that still exist for women and girls who want to take part, or excel, in sport in Britain today.  
Of course the situation has improved and we should pay credit to the role models that sport had produced.  A couple of years ago the all conquering, quadruple winning and European champions that were Arsenal LFC actually received a mention on the BBC Sports Personality Programme. Just a mention but that is progress.  This year to be fair (and largely because of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) we have the most representative shortlist for winners ever. We can choose from the amazing Rebecca Adlington, Christine Ohuruogu, Rebecca Romero and Nicole Cooke.  All brilliant role models who deserve every single bit of glory they receive.  In 2006 Nicole Cooke won the Women’s Tour de France. You did know that yeah? Wasn’t it splashed all over the papers?
Some would argue it is wrong to hold up Olympic and world champions as role models.  How will I ever reach the same heights as a Kelly Holmes or Kelly Smith? But it is essential to know that they exist. Research published by the Women’s Sport’s Foundation a few years ago revealed young schools girls were listing David Beckham as their role model!  While young enough and free enough to run around and play sport at will, why do girls not want to be Rachel Yankey or Karen Carney? We’re still a long way from the wanting to be footballers at all. And who can blame them. I played football this weekend and having not played for a while I was astonished that grown men still feel it acceptable to ridicule women of all ages who turn out on a Sunday lunchtime to play the beautiful game?  In front of their sons no less. We still have some way to go.
However things are slowly changing.  The BBC in particular has invested substantial amounts into profiling the best of women’s sport. There are many positive role models in sport for women and girls and we should see more of them.  Indeed with their relative lack of arrogance, cheating and decadence they represent aspirational qualities applicable to all.

One response to “BBC Sports Personality of the Year – by Helen Donohoe

  1. What a shame … while I would never take it away from anyone … we had the strongest field of women in the line up for years – and Rebecca Adlington only made it to third. Would have loved to have seen her win, with two more women in second and third place.

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