The very first thing that Alex Jones said on Monday evening when the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year was announced live on the One Show was “they’re all men”. She sounded quite shocked – and rightly so.
She was not alone. World champion swimmer Rebecca Adlington took to Twitter to say that there were many women in sport who deserve recognition this year.
Attention was also given to how those shortlists were made up - voted for predominantly by male sports editors of national newspapers and, inexplicably, representatives of lads’ Mags Nuts and Zoo.
Four MPs, our own Jo Swinson, and Labour’s Stella Creasy, Alison McGovern and Joan Walley, have asked for a meeting with BBC Director General Mark Thomson to “discuss how to improve the celebration of women in sporting life.”
Their letter to him said:
This outcome is extremely unhelpful to the promotion of women’s’ sport in the UK. It will result in the annual TV programme – usually a great occasion for British sport – ignoring women’s achievements in 2011.
This bias has led to a number of outstanding sporting achievements by women being entirely disregarded. Rebecca Adlington, Keri-Anne Payne, Victoria Pendleton, Chrissie Wellington, Nicola Adams, Jessica Ennis, Sarah Stevenson, Beth Tweddle, Hannah England and Kath Grainger, among others, have all been fantastically successful within their respective fields, yet none have made the shortlist. Chrissie Wellington, for example, has set two new world records in 2011. She even won the 2011 Ironman World Championship race despite suffering from a number of serious injuries, but has not received any recognition for this on the shortlist.
A great deal of work is done each year by the sporting community to encourage women and girls into sport, and the absence of women from this award severely undermines those efforts.
They specifically raised the issue of the inclusion of Nuts and Zoo while women’s and sports magazines were left out of the process and asked for action to make sure that we don’t end up with an all male shortlist in future years.
We will bring you news of the reply they receive in due course.