No women on BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist

// 29 November 2011

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A few weeks ago, I tweeted about a conversation I’d had with one of my journalism students. She asked me, “Why is there so little coverage of women’s sport?” I replied, “Because OF THE PATRIARCHY.”

It was a joke, but also serious, and that’s reinforced now with the shortlist for the 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, which includes no women at all.

The longlist included some highly talented women, including Keri-Anne Payne and Rebecca Adlington – and it might not surprise you to learn that Nuts and Zoo, who get to nominate their longlist, chose no women at all.

Sports journalists such as Gabby Logan, Elly Oldroyd and Jacqui Oatley are debating the issue on Twitter this morning, and being bombarded with tweets informing them that people “just aren’t interested in women’s sport” – nothing to do with sexism or bias, you understand, but a lack of interest.

That lack of interest may be true, but it’s encouraged by a culture that doesn’t value or promote female sporting achievement. The sop that “next year will be different” because it’s an Olympic year is simply ridiculous, because it emphasises the point that women’s sport gets such a limited amount of media coverage as a general rule.

Who would you have nominated in the longlist or shortlist if you got to vote?

We at The F Word are now planning to blog throughout December celebrating women’s sporting achievement, concluding with the nomination of The F Word’s Sportswomen of the Year – so if you want to nominate someone, please add her name in the comments, or drop Carrie an email! If you’d like to contribute a guest blog on a particular sport, then also contact Carrie.

Comments From You

Rachel // Posted 29 November 2011 at 11:16 am

My vote would be for European Heptathlon Champion Jessica Ennis MBE, who was nominated for the 2011 Laureus World Sports Awards, was European Athlete of the Month for January 2011 and was voted Athlete of the Year in October for the third time by the British Athletic Writers’ Association. She holds a psychology degree from the University of Sheffield, is a columnist for The Times and has spoken out this year against doping.

As a side point, I’m not sure Monique van der Vorst qualifies for the award, but her story is completely fascinating – I heard her speak on Radio 4 recently, and her strength, self belief and athleticism are inspiring:

Paul Frame // Posted 29 November 2011 at 11:51 am

Arran Brindle.

First woman to score a hundred in an ECB premier league (the level below men’s county cricket)

My Weekly Book // Posted 29 November 2011 at 12:58 pm

The omission of Jessica Ennis is particularly odd considering that she was voted an athlete of the year for the second year in a row by the British Athletics Writers’ Association last month – alongside Mo Farah who, of course, does make the list.

Other successful female athletes in 2011? Hannah England, who won world silver in the women’s 1500m at the World Championships in Korea. Or Tiffany (Ofili) Porter who took silver at the European Indoor Championships 100m hurdles in March, breaking the British national record as she did so. Middle-distance runner Jenny Meadows, the third-fastest British woman over 800m after Kelly Holmes and Kirsty Wade, also won silver medals at the same tournament.

Helen Clitheroe produced a cracking win and a personal best in the 10k category of this year’s Great Manchester Run as well as winning gold over 3000m event at the European Indoor event. Gemma Steel, Jo Pavey, Louise Damen… the list of high-achieving British women runners you’ve probably never heard of is a very long one.

At least things in the YSPOTY category are better – an equal balance between young men and women there with tennis star Laura Robson, sprinter Sally Brown, cyclist Lucy Garner, gold medal-winning swimmer Ellie Simmonds and golfer Lauren Taylor all represented. Interesting to compare the selection procedures for this with the adult competition…

Ellie // Posted 29 November 2011 at 5:26 pm

Sarah Stevenson

Astrid // Posted 29 November 2011 at 11:41 pm

It was not until this blog post that I realized the problem with the media’s lack of covering women sports. Usually whenever there is a Lakers, Cowboys, or any game with male teammates, their success always seem to overshadow womens’. If it was up to me, I would consider this sexism. Why hasn’t anybody changed this?

Helvetica // Posted 30 November 2011 at 9:16 am

I would nominate Rachel Corsie who is the captain of Glasgow City Ladies FC. She and her team got to the final 16 of the Champions League this year, where they lost to Turbine Potsdam (last season’s overall winners).

They managed this even though women who play football in Scotland do so on a completely amateur basis.

BBC Alba actually covered some of the matches, which was great, but generally there is very little media coverage and that which exists is in the ‘novelty’ section of newspapers, rather than in with the sport.

Jenny // Posted 30 November 2011 at 4:37 pm

I would nominate Catriona Morrison, a Scottish duathlete and triathlete and a woman of real strength and determination who had a sparkling season this year, and who is currently world duathlon champion. Among other 2011 races, she was 3rd in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, she won the Texas 70.3 Ironman race, she won the St Croix 70.3 Ironman, and she also won the Texas Ironman – all tough endurance races in extreme heat.

An ironman triathlon race involves a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bike ride and a marathon, all completed in order in one day, and the 70.3 races cover 70.3 miles – amazing.

Cat also does a ton of work with local schools to promote sport as a fun and rewarding thing for children to be involved in; and is an all-round nice person, winning in a sport which proves women can be incredibly strong and tough, and getting very little recognition. Her website is

Andy // Posted 30 November 2011 at 4:47 pm

Victoria Pendleton (track cycling) and Amy Williams (skeleton) are both Olympic Champions and deserve a look-in. Victoria won the 2010 Sprint World Champs and Amy was the only gold medalist in the 2010 Winter Olympics yet they gave the prize to a jockey who doesn’t even do the actual running. Victoria was unlucky enough to get her medals the same year as eventual SPOTY winner Chris Hoy but is worth watching next year, as is Rebecca Adlington I presume.

nick // Posted 1 December 2011 at 8:42 am

Why not have a female catergory and a male category ?

could Orange not be asked to sponsor the Womens Sport Personality of the Year, like they do for literature ?

Question though …….

say there were 5 men and 5 women on the shortlist……….and a man won ….would

women complain about that ? and vice versa …if a woman won would men have a right to complain too ???

JessLeeds // Posted 1 December 2011 at 12:50 pm


Firstly, ‘women’ aren’t complaining about the lack of diversity on a shortlist celebrating personalities in sport, feminists are. It is possible to be concerned about the current representation in the main stream media of women and self defining women and be a man, men can also be feminists.

Secondly, no, of course feminists (which presumably is what you mean by ‘women’) would not complain if a man won from a shortlist as diverse as the one you mention, why would they?

Emily Ryall // Posted 3 December 2011 at 9:22 am

Maggie Alphonsi – she has been a stand out in the game of rugby and is one of the first women to gain real respect and admiration from male players (with many commenting that if she wasn’t female she could get a professional contract with a men’s team). She has won the Times Sports Writers player of the year and IRB player of the year.

N.B. England have beaten world champions New Zealand twice this week (and are playing their final test match today) and there has been almost no coverage in the media. Last weekend they played after the Australia v Barbarians match at Twickenham and their game was so much better in quality of skill and all round entertainment.

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