BBC must stop overlooking female athletes and put women at front and centre of Spoty ceremony

In a year they’ve dominated the headlines, it’s hard to ignore the burning injustice that female athletes make up less than half of the nominees on Spoty’s six-man shortlist.

The only consolation is that tennis golden girl Emma Raducanu is the overwhelming favorite to win the gong, which would at least end the 15-year wait for a female winner. But with Sarah Storey the only other woman to join Raducanu on the coveted list, it’s unforgivable to think that in such a good year for women’s sport, male exploits should be celebrated more.

That’s why the BBC must pull out all the stops tonight to ensure women athletes celebrate a clean sweep across the board. For the Team of the Year award, it’s certainly a one-on-one between Chelsea after their treble season and the England women’s rugby team, who extended their winning streak to 18 consecutive Tests in 2021, not to mention New Zealand’s two-time world title win.

Their respective coaches must also be prime contenders for Coach of the Year. Emma Hayes, who guided Chelsea to the Champions League final before winning the hearts of the country with her insightful comments during Euros, would be a more than worthy winner. The same goes for England’s Simon Middleton, who last week became the first manager of a women’s rugby team to be named World Rugby Coach of the Year.

Rachael Blackmore and Jamaican double-Olympic gold medalist Elaine Thompson-Herah make up a third of the six-strong World Sports Star awards list, further in line with the BBC’s penchant for helping women athletes face inequality (no woman has won the award in over two decades, and only eight took home one of the 65 distributed since its inception in 1960).

Who can forgive Laura Kenny, the most successful female cyclist in Olympic history and the first British woman to win gold in three consecutive Olympic Games? And what of Lizzie Deignan, whose legendary win at Paris Roubaix took the nation by storm, along with her bloodied and blistered hands after clutching her handlebars so tightly across the cobblestone streets of northern France? A golden year for British women’s cycling also saw the unprecedented BMX Olympic gold medals of Charlotte Worthington and Beth Shriever, who was even forced to crowdfund just to be on the starting line at the Tokyo Olympics before making it to the World champion was crowned a month later.

Rather than celebrating women athletes’ memorable achievements, Spoty has chosen to provoke more controversy by involving a man who embarrassingly threatened to sue the BBC if his name appears on the shortlist. No one disputes Tyson Fury’s talent in the ring or his role as an unlikely poster child for men’s mental health. But for someone who insisted he had no “need for a review or any awards” after his nomination last year — not to mention his homophobic and sexist comments he made on the show in 2015 — it’s startling that our national broadcaster unnecessarily glorified him at the expense of honoring another female athlete.

The inclusion of Fury is damning evidence that Spoty has turned into a mindless personality contest that’s problematic even for female athletes. Note the different reactions when Naomi Osaka pulled out of this year’s French Open after citing bouts of depression compared to when Fury opened up about his mental health struggles. The former was hung out to dry by tennis’ grand slam bodies, while the latter was revered as a champion.

Our national broadcaster seems to have forgotten that it is publicly committed to women’s sport. Come on BBC, do the right thing – put women front and center on Sunday nights. BBC must stop overlooking female athletes and put women at front and centre of Spoty ceremony

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