SPOTY has run way past its sell-by
As another year of sport draws to a close, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award (SPOTY) rears its head once more.
For the uninitiated, SPOTY is a staple of the UK sporting calendar. But for some years now it’s been an over-exaggerated night of backslapping amid a backdrop of borrowed highlight streams from other television stations. The event should’ve been kicked into touch long ago.
It’s hard to know where to start with awards evenings. To a degree they’re all inward-facing, self-indulgent, look-at-us affairs. But the fact that SPOTY still seems to be held in high regard is confusing. It can only be that there is no real alternative, certainly not on mainstream television.
A big puzzle lies with the broadcaster whose name it bears, and the dwindling amount of actual sport on its main channels. It is still losing what bits and pieces it does have.
Take the likely Team of the Year award winners. England’s thrilling cricket World Cup final victory led by Ben Stokes was on Channel 4, graciously farmed out so millions more fans could get involved. The rest of the tournament was on Sky.
Liverpool won the biggest club prize in football but you didn’t catch it on the Beeb.
Another contender for the headline prize, Lewis Hamilton’s achievements in F1 are played out away from the BBC. Likewise most football, boxing, and tennis.
Armchair fans wanting a bit of free-to-air action on the Beeb have long known it’s cheaper to churn out more depressing episodes of EastEnders than it is to show positive, inspiring sports performances.
SPOTY is cringe television
Coupled with this, the show itself has become a weird mix of the clunky and the awkward. Who could forget Max Whitlock having to perform a gymnastics routine on a grand piano in 2015? In a suit!
It’s not a night for any montage-haters either. Indeed, for years now I’ve seen SPOTY as one drawn-out montage of sport we’ve lost on normal telly. Times when we viewers wouldn’t have to go hunting for the action. Perhaps they could run a Sport You Once Saw With Us segment.
Rupert Murdoch must love the continuing visibility of the words: ‘Courtesy of Sky TV’ running atop most of the clips. It’s undeniably a great advertisement, even after all these years.
Questions over the relevance of the event have also extended to previous contenders. Andy Murray often couldn’t turn up as he was busy being a top sportsman and preparing for a new season. In 2017, unexpected winner Mo Farah was a similar no-show, which led to an awkward if not memorable video link-up.
Disappointingly the night has even become a freebie junket for leftfield celebs – Susan Boyle and a bunch of Love Islanders anyone?
Do yourself a favour this year and switch off.