Andy Murray may be the first British man to win a Wimbledon singles title in 77 years and be the bookmakers’ favourite to lift the BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy this evening, but today, one of the show’s co-creators said the media-shy Scot wouldn’t be getting his vote.
It is the most prestigious award in British sport and is celebrating its 60th year. But the 12,000 fans attending the glittering ceremony in Leeds tonight will be disappointed as the tennis player, who has been strongly backed to win the trophy, is not attending.
Instead he is remaining in Miami to continue his rehabilitation from a back injury.
In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Sir Paul Fox, who edited the first show in 1954, said: “Everybody says Andy Murray will win it. I’m not so sure my vote will go to him, though. He can come again another year, and if he can’t be bothered to attend, well, I think that makes a difference, quite honestly.
“My vote goes to Mo Farah. His Olympic achievements last year followed by medals at the World Championships this year are truly amazing.”
The BBC said it was “disappointed” the tennis player will not be attending, but was “looking forward” to him joining the programme via a video link-up. The show’s co-host Gary Lineker said on Friday that Murray may “regret” not attending in years to come.
If Murray does win, he will not be the first sports star to fail to collect his trophy in person. Cricketers Ian Botham (1981) and Andrew Flintoff (2005) both missed collecting their prizes as they were playing abroad. In 2007, the boxer Joe Calzaghe was awarded the trophy in Las Vegas after travelling to watch a fight.
This isn’t the first time that controversy has dogged the programme in recent years.
In 2011, it hit the headlines after an all-male shortlist – selected by the sports editors of national newspapers – was announced, causing claims of sexism. Critics point out that only 12 women have won the award: swimmer Anita Lonsbrough was first, in 1962.
Philip Bernie, the BBC’s head of TV sport, said that the show was “incredibly complex and occasionally it doesn’t quite go to plan”, but that the corporation had “learnt lessons”. It now has procedures in place to ensure it won’t happen again, including a new advisory panel.
Footballers, perhaps surprisingly, have also been under-represented, with only five players winning the prize, starting in 1966 with Bobby Moore, who captained England in their World Cup win that year.
Sir Paul, who went on to be controller of BBC1, said he had no idea in 1954 that the show would last so long, but is disappointed that it is no longer a “proper” sports review of the year: “Sadly, the BBC has lost so many live sports contracts that they can no longer do that. Let’s face it, tonight half the footage on the show will be borrowed from Sky or ITV.”
It’s a far cry from the first show in 1954, when the BBC had a television monopoly and the runner Christopher Chataway beat rival runner Roger Bannister to the award.
“Christopher Chataway won it because he ran a fantastic race at White City before a live television audience. Whether that was the outstanding achievement of the year I doubt, but it showed us the power of television,” said Sir Paul.
“The outstanding achievement of the year was Roger Bannister’s sub-four minute mile, but that was shown on television the following day, and not shown live.”