BBC in Spoty chaos amid Emma Raducanu's Covid quarantine and backlash over Lewis Hamilton omission

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Lewis Hamilton - BBC in Spoty chaos amid Emma Raducanu's Covid quarantine and backlash over Lewis Hamilton omission - GETTY IMAGES
Lewis Hamilton - BBC in Spoty chaos amid Emma Raducanu's Covid quarantine and backlash over Lewis Hamilton omission - GETTY IMAGES

The BBC’s plans for the Sports Personality of the Year awards were hit by Emma Raducanu being forced into coronavirus quarantine, and a revolt starting over the exclusion of Lewis Hamilton and others from the shortlist.

Raducanu, the odds-on favourite for the trophy after her fairy-tale victory in the US Open, announced she had tested positive for Covid-19 and had begun 10 days’ isolation, hours after being named on the Spoty shortlist. Britain’s new tennis queen had already chosen to skip Sunday’s glittering ceremony to prepare for next month’s Australian Open at the World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi but she could now be forced to accept the award from a hotel room with no one there to present it to her.

The BBC was also facing the embarrassment of having to find someone else to collect one of the top-three trophies on behalf of world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury, whose threat to sue if he was named on the shortlist was ignored.

The shortlist provoked further recriminations after Hamilton led a stellar cast of 2021’s sporting stars to miss out. The corporation had refused to extend the shortlist despite it being a summer Olympic and Paralympic year.

Josh Taylor, who in May became the first Briton to be crowned a four-belt undisputed boxing world champion, posted on Twitter: “May 22nd 2021. First person in the UK to become undisputed world boxing champion in the four belt era and hold all the championship belts. #HistoryMaker shove yer SPOTY right up a---.”

The Daily Telegraph has been told Hamilton, last year’s winner, would have been a seventh name on the list had he not been cruelly denied a record-breaking eighth Formula One world title, although the BBC declined to comment on whether he would be added if Mercedes successfully appealed against the outcome of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Previous summer Olympic and Paralympic years had witnessed bumper Spoty shortlists, with 12 names included in 2012, and a record 16 four years later.

But the BBC stuck rigidly to the much smaller list of contenders it settled upon in 2018 following controversies over top-three finishes by well-supported figures in niche sports.

Julian Knight MP, the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said: “It’s been many years since Spoty has had any cache with the wider public. All it seems to do is invite controversy in the media every year. I bet if you asked a hundred people to name the last three Spoty winners, you’d barely get more than a few who knew the answer.”

Cycling was the biggest loser in the Spoty stakes, with Jason and Laura Kenny and Mark Cavendish all failing to make the cut, despite equalling or breaking major records this year. The Kennys became Britain’s most successful male and female Olympians, while Cavendish joined the great Eddie Mercx on 34 Tour de France stage wins.

As well as Raducanu and Fury, the list announced on Monday included Olympic champions Tom Daley and Adam Peaty, and Dame Sarah Storey, who this summer became Britain’s most decorated Paralympian.

Raheem Sterling joined them after inspiring England to the final of this summer’s European Championship, their first major final for 55 years.

The omicron variant of corona-virus had already forced the awards behind closed doors for a second successive year.
The BBC confirmed the move last week after The Telegraph revealed top athletes had turned down invitations to an event held six days before Christmas Day because they would be forced to cancel their festive plans if they caught Covid-19 there – and also potentially if they came into contact with someone infected with the disease.

The Government last week imposed stricter measures elsewhere to limit the spread of the latest 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 Spoty presentation in Salford but cut that to fewer than 50 mainly awards contenders in a repeat of how the event was staged a year ago.

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