Tyson Fury and the BBC were locked in an extraordinary standoff over the Sports Personality of the Year award on Wednesday night after the boxer demanded to be removed from the shortlist.
Having already provoked major rows by refusing to include Marcus Rashford or more than one woman among the six contenders, the corporation defied Fury’s wish to be excluded a day after nominations were announced.
The heavyweight posted a video on social media in which he asked the BBC to “please take me off your list” and urged his own fans not to vote for him. Fury, 32, who beat Deontay Wilder in February to become a two-time world champion, added: “I’m the people’s champion and have no need for verification or any awards.
“I know who I am and what I’ve done in the sport. I have the love of the people, which is worth more to me than all the awards in the world.”
— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) December 2, 2020
Confirming Fury’s name would be put to the public vote, a BBC spokesperson said: “The shortlist is decided by an independent expert panel who choose contenders based on their sporting achievement in a given year. On this basis, Tyson Fury will remain on the list for Spoty 2020. As always, the winner will be decided by the public voting during the live show and it is, of course, up to Tyson if he chooses to participate in the show.”
Telegraph Sport has been told there was bemusement on Wednesday at the BBC at Fury’s demand, with the boxer having been informed of his nomination before Tuesday’s announcement of the shortlist.
His inclusion sparked controversy, given he has served a backdated two-year ban after failing a drugs test – something he blamed on eating uncastrated wild boar or ingesting contaminated supplements – and remains under investigation amid claims a false defence was offered on his behalf, which his camp has denied.
He was also forced this year to sever ties with an alleged crime lord who had helped broker a deal for him to fight Anthony Joshua for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.
Fury was at the centre of the controversy which led to the only other known occasion on which a Spoty contender has asked to be removed from the shortlist.
In 2015, the Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford wrote a private letter to the BBC because he felt uncomfortable being part of the ceremony with Fury, who had expressed deeply homophobic views that year.
Rutherford, whose sister is gay, was eventually persuaded to attend, but later admitted he wished he had stayed away.
A petition calling for Fury to be removed from that year’s shortlist, which attracted over 140,000 signatures, did not prevent him finishing fourth and he apologised for any hurt his comments had caused.
He subsequently overcame mental health issues and has become an advocate and ambassador for those who suffer.
Joshua on Wednesday night said of Fury’s demand to be removed from the shortlist: “That’s his decision. It’s a nice honour, even if you don’t win it.”
Joshua has bad memories of the awards, having been an odds-on favourite to win in 2017 only to finish fourth.
He added: “I had loads of champagne ready to pop on the way back. I was drinking Ribera and Sprite, I went back a loser! I should be the one doing that video!”
Fury was shortlisted this year alongside Stuart Broad, Hollie Doyle, Lewis Hamilton, Jordan Henderson and Ronnie O’Sullivan.