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P… P… Pick up …a Personality

OPINION: Since switching to an arena event, having a personality is no longer a requirement for success at the BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year

01 December, 2017 — By Richard Osley

BBC Sports Personality Of The Year presenter Gary Lineker

IN the old days, the BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year was a curious enough affair. Sports types sat around a Kilroy studio looking slightly bored as they listened to everybody’s achievements, before one of them was arbitrarily called down to win the trophy. It was pretty honky, but because it was a special programme and almost Christmas you were allowed to stay up late to see Nigel Mansell’s uncontrollable delight at winning.

The Beeb in recent years perhaps saw how this was all as fatiguing as a royal variety performance, jumped the budget, and turned it into an arena event. People are now expected to dress like it’s the Oscars while Gary Lineker and Gabby Logan bellow on about how brilliant all the sport we had seen on the satellite channels had been. If these guys shouted loud enough that this was an important event, then, well, it must be an important event.

The awkward irony to this slightly desperate gear shift, however, is the producers inexplicably missed the moment to change the name simply to “sportsperson of the year”. It has become clear, after all, that having a personality is no longer a requirement to success. It may never have been. See Mansell.

If it was based on personality, surely our tax hero Lewis Hamilton would not be on the shortlist for this year’s prize. My suspicion is that the name “sports personality of the year” – or SPOTY – was retained simply for people to grouch about how none of the nominated men and women appears to be an interesting “personality” at all.

This year’s shortlisted footballer is, no word of a lie, Harry Kane. We can all probably predict what happened when he found out this week: his mouth was wide open, his eyes glazed, and then in a deep voice he would have said: “It’s nice to be nominated, the lad’s done well. Football. Goal.”

This sounds anti-Spurs but take any Premiership footballer there’s ever been – bar Thierry – and they all seem like crashing bores. In fact, any player in the league right now can guarantee a broadcasting career for the retirement years if they punk up their hair or holler like a grizzly bear a lot.

The well-known melt Robbie Savage is a case in point – a man who apparently wishes to offer no tactical insight, but is regularly booked as “the zany one”. Somebody decided he has “personality” but it simply proves the growing suspicion that we – us, as a country – are still struggling to define what the P word actually means. The BBC could help here, by changing the name of their star prize.

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