Fury at BBC Awards

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-18 5:03:02

Boxer’s presence on Sports Personality of the Year shortlist causing controversy

British boxer Tyson Fury celebrates in the ring after his victory over Ukraine's Vladimir Klitschko after their world heavyweight title bout in Duesseldorf, Germany on November 28. Photo: IC

For the last six decades the people of Britain have settled down on a dark December evening and told the BBC who they think deserves to be awarded the title of BBC Sports Personality of the Year. It's a competition that has become outmoded and arguably irrelevant now. It is certainly best described as quaint, imagine a version of the Eurovision Song Contest where the countries are replaced with sports - gymnastics for Estonia, say - and the obscure (yet often catchy) pop songs are their achievements over the last year. The public then votes on this celebration of sport, deciding via telephone and online polling on the night.

If it sounds too twee to be true then it is but it has also proved quite controversial to the broadcasting company over the years. As a public vote it has always been open to rigging and it ­always will fall prey to a concerted effort on behalf of one of the members of the shortlist or their fans. Up until three years ago, the shortlist was determined by a panel of 30 journalists but they were heavily criticized and then subsequently replaced after producing an all-male shortlist for the 2011 edition of the awards. Today a panel of experts are tasked with producing a balanced list, which they have done - a quarter are female and the full spectrum of sports are represented - but there have been problems with who is on the shortlist rather than who isn't.

Tyson Fury is the man raising the wrath of his fellow nominees, the newspapers and the voters. The new heavyweight champion of the world has never been shy to open his mouth. The outspoken boxer made comments on homosexuality, pedophilia and abortion that have attracted a lot of media attention since his title. Older interviews have since been raked up where he has said that a woman's place is on her back or in the kitchen and recently in the pre-fight build up to his title victory over Wladimir Klitschko in Germany earlier this month, he said that fellow Sports Personality of the Year nominee Jessica Ennis-Hill was attractive when she put on a dress.

There has been a campaign to ban Fury from the list, which has been rejected by the BBC on the basis that the panel made their decision and the public can decide who wins, while quickly making clear that Fury's presence on the shortlist does not mean that the BBC condones his views. Fellow nominee Mark Rutherford threatened to boycott the awards unless Fury was removed, although it has become apparent that he has backed down, while various rights groups are set to picket the Belfast venue on Sunday night. Who knows what any of his critics will have made of the latest news from The Sun that Fury kissed a gay man to prove he wasn't homophobic?

Fury to his credit has said that it might be better for everyone if he doesn't win the Sports Personality of the Year title, revealing on Twitter that he might not be the best role model for the planet's youth, adding that they should "give it to someone who would appreciate it." The only problem with a figure as divisive is in which way do the public disagree with him. At a time of year when novelty records reach the tip of the charts there could be some mischief to come and a Fury win would be the biggest controversy in the history of the award so far.

Who can stop Fury?

Lizzie Armitstead (Cycling)

The best female cyclist on the ­planet after winning the world road race title, she is one of only six Britons - male or female - to have held that accolade. But the public are as unaware of her as they are women's cycling. 

Lucy Bronze (Football)

Matched the England men's side's best ­finish since winning the World Cup in 1966 by ­reaching the semifinals of the Women's World Cup in Canada. Bronze scored two winners along the way but will ­suffer at the awards for not being a male footballer. 

Jessica Ennis-Hill (Athletics)

The runner-up in this award in 2012 returned from motherhood to win the heptathlon World Championships in the Chinese capital. A month beforehand she was not planning on going to the event but it ended in glory to cap a remarkable comeback. Favorite for the title on Sunday.

Mo Farah (Athletics)

Everyone loves Mo Farah, with some even arguing that he is the best sportsman the country has ever produced. He was on top form in Beijing, where he won the 5,000m and 10,000m crowns. Farah, who came third in the 2011 awards, may suffer from involvement in a doping investigation. 

Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1)

The current holder of the title could become the first person to win it back to back but knowing the ­British ­mentality of building people up to knock them down that is about as likely as everyone agreeing that ­Formula 1 is a sport. He'll have to console himself with his flamboyant lifestyle.

Andy Murray (Tennis)

The Scot was the reason that Britain won the Davis Cup and it is a victory that should rank among the best of his career. The public are swayed by the singles majors, though, and as fine a player as Murray is, he is hardly known for his personality. In with a chance.  

Adam Peaty (Swimming)

Holds the world records for 50m and 100m breaststroke and the 4x100m relay and he did that by winning them all at this year's World Championships. Sadly the British ­public will not be won over by swimmers so his hopes have sunk without trace.

Greg Rutherford (Athletics)

The long jumper performed his greatest jump at a major event at the World Championships in Beijing this year. Hitting 8.41m, he was a solid 17cm ahead of his nearest competitor, though he might want to make that distance a little further from Fury. The current holder of the Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles will not be adding to them on Sunday.

Kevin Sinfield (Rugby League)

Led Leeds Rhinos to a rugby league treble at 37 this season before switching codes for rugby union with sister club Leeds Carnegie. Sinfield deserves to be recognized but the odds are stacked against him winning.

Max Whitlock (Gymnastics)

The youngster became the first British man to win a gold at the gymnastics world championships with his performance on the pommel horse in Glasgow. He's done a lot for men's gymnastics but it's not pricked the public consciousness yet.

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