BBC cuts SPOTY invitations due to new coronavirus restrictions

·5-min read
Gabby Logan BBC Sports Personality of the Year - BBC cuts SPOTY invitations due to new coronavirus restrictions - Paul Cooper/BBC
Gabby Logan BBC Sports Personality of the Year - BBC cuts SPOTY invitations due to new coronavirus restrictions - Paul Cooper/BBC

The BBC has drastically cut the number of those invited to its Sports Personality of the Year show in the wake of the Government’s new coronavirus restrictions.

The corporation confirmed the move after Telegraph Sport revealed top athletes had turned down invites because they would be forced to cancel their Christmas plans if they caught Covid-19 at the December 19 ceremony – and also potentially if they came into contact with someone infected with the omicron variant of the disease.

The Government on Wednesday relaxed the requirement to quarantine for 10 days in the latter case but imposed other stricter measures in response to the new variant, including making both the NHS Covid Pass and mask-wearing mandatory in many venues.

The BBC had previously invited around 500 of the great and good of the sporting year to the event in Salford but cut that to fewer than 50 mainly awards contenders.

A BBC spokesman said: “The health and safety of those attending BBC Sports Personality of the Year is always our primary concern. Following the announcement from the UK Government that new coronavirus measures are to be introduced in England, we’ve taken the decision not to have a studio audience at this year’s event. The show will go ahead with essential staff and contributors and we will of course follow all government and industry guidance.”

Telegraph Sport revealed on Wednesday that a number of Olympians had chosen not to risk attending the glittering ceremony six days before Christmas Day and that the BBC had decided not to hold an after-show party to reduce the risk of it becoming a super-spreader event.

One agent of multiple Olympians said all his clients had turned down invitations to attend the awards, adding: “So you want me to come to an event and I’ll miss Christmas if it goes wrong? No thank you very much.

“We had to spend Christmas without our families last year. Why would we do that again?

“We’ve taken the decision as a business: just stay at home.”

Two other representatives of potential SPOTY award contenders admitted they had not known rules around the omicron variant were different to those for other variants prior to being contacted by Telegraph Sport.

Last year’s SPOTY, which took place when the country was in different tiers of coronavirus restrictions, saw invitees limited to award contenders and essential personnel only.

The BBC expanded the guest list for 2021 but still with reduced numbers versus those pre-pandemic.

Emma Raducanu, the hot favourite for the main award, will not be present after deciding to play in a tournament in Abu Dhabi ahead of next month’s Australian Open.

Also certain not to attend is Tyson Fury, who told Telegraph Sport this week that he would take legal action against the BBC if he was named on the shortlist, after making the same threat last year to no avail.

That shortlist will be announced on Monday – after last year’s winner, Sir Lewis Hamilton, attempts to secure a record-breaking eighth Formula One world title.

Athletes reject SPOTY invitations for fear of being pinged

by Ben Rumsby

Top athletes have turned down invitations to the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year show because they would be forced to cancel their Christmas plans if they came into contact with someone with the omicron variant of coronavirus.

Telegraph Sport has been told that a number of Olympians have chosen not to risk attending the glittering ceremony six days before Christmas Day, due to rules that would mean quarantining for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status.

It can also be disclosed that the BBC has already decided not to hold an after-show party to reduce the risk of Spoty becoming a super-spreader event.

One agent of multiple Olympians said all his clients had turned down invitations to attend the awards, adding: “So you want me to come to an event and I’ll miss Christmas if it goes wrong? No thank you very much.

“We had to spend Christmas without our families last year. Why would we do that again?

“We’ve taken the decision as a business: just stay at home.”

Two other representatives of potential Spoty award contenders admitted that, before being contacted by Telegraph Sport, they were not aware that rules around the omicron variant were different to those for other variants.

Last year’s Spoty, which took place when the country was in different tiers of coronavirus restrictions, saw invitees limited to award contenders and essential personnel only.

The BBC expanded the guestlist for 2021 to include the great and good of the sporting year but still with reduced numbers compared to the pre-pandemic shows.

Emma Raducanu, the hot favourite for the main award, will not be present after deciding to play in a tournament in Abu Dhabi ahead of next month’s Australian Open.

Also certain not to attend is Tyson Fury, who told Telegraph Sport this week that he would take legal action against the BBC if he was named on the shortlist – after making the same threat last year to no avail.

That shortlist will be announced on Monday – after last year’s winner, Sir Lewis Hamilton, attempts to secure a record-breaking eighth Formula One world title on Sunday.

A BBC spokesperson said: “The show continues to adhere to Government and industry protocols, with the safety and well-being of all invited guests being of paramount importance.”

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