The announcement of the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the year is always met with criticism but this year it seems to have been stronger than ever as there is not a single woman in the shortlisted group of 10.
The omission has prompted the likes of four-time Ironman triathlon world champion Chrissie Wellington, Olympic and world swimming champ Rebecca Adlington and Great Britain’s most successful Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson to speak out.
BBC presenter Gary Lineker, who announced the list on The One Show, said: “It perhaps has not been as strong a year for women.”
Some sportsmen who have had a less-than-stellar year are in there – for instance England cricket captain Andrew Strauss and tennis player Andy Murray – and there are three golfers among the 10.
World champions like Wellington, fellow triathlete Helen Jenkins, Adlington and her friend Keri-anne Payne, rowers Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins are just a few of those who arguably have better claim to a place on the list.
The BBC has defended itself by pointing out the nominations come from a group of newspaper and magazine editors as part of a system adopted in 2006 to make sure that the process is completely unbiased and transparent. However, the corporation still selects the editors in question. Men’s magazines Zoo and Nuts have a say and neither named a woman in their list.
One argument that has done the rounds has it that women’s sport is not as high profile as men’s, therefore women are less likely to figure on the shortlist. One way of giving women’s sport a higher profile would be to make sure they feature in events like this. The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year award has helped in that regard butstill cannot compete with SPotY for mainstream exposure.
I’ve asked several leading current and former sportswomen to nominate their top five of 2011 and I’d welcome yours too – either on this blog or on Twitter to @martingough22. It would be great to show clearly how strong women’s sport is.
UPDATE: Some of the responses so far:
Current and former elite sportswomen: