JONATHAN MCEVOY – BBC Sports Personality of the Year TV Review

JONATHAN McEVOY: Sport matters to all of us, said the ubiquitous Alex Scott. Not the modern BBC. Part concert, part One Show-style magazine programme, SPOTY has never looked more detached from its original design

  • BBC SPOTY this year was part concert, part One Show, and not much sport
  • Reviews of major sports were breezed through in seconds with little voiceover
  • Lewis Hamilton picked up main award for the second time after winning F1 title

Hats off to Auntie for managing to squeeze a few minutes of actual sport into this light entertainment orgy.

Forgive the sarcasm, but if the so-called BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony had confined itself to games playing we could have been tucked up with our cocoa an hour earlier.

Part concert, part One Show-style magazine programme, SPOTY has never looked more detached from its original design — a parade badly rained on from a great height. 

There was no chance of Covid cuts at the BBC with four hosts at the awards on Sunday

Lewis Hamilton has won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award for the second time

Cutting the Beeb some slack, Covid has made this a strange year. Sporting pickings are necessarily slimmer than usual. But that did not mean reviews of major sports should have been breezed through in a few seconds of perfunctory voiceover. 

The theme of the evening was coronavirus, its heroes and heroines. We salute them, of course. Even if it was a little sentimental at times and often only tangentially linked to sport.

For some reason it took four presenters to deliver this: Gary Lineker, Gabby Logan, Clare Balding and flavour of the month, the ubiquitous Alex Scott, in whose mouth the letter ‘g’ never appears at the end of any word. Covid cuts at the Beeb? Perish the thought. 

Part concert, part One Show-style magazine programme, SPOTY didn’t look right this year

The quartet provided plenty of gushing but not much gravitas. They often spoke in relay, a sentence each. One particular bon mot from Scott: ‘Sport matters a lot to all of us.’

Not to the modern BBC, it doesn’t. Last night’s repertory travelled as far as Salford with a virtual audience of 1,000 appearing on the wall. Tyson Fury, one of the six candidates, was only present in the highlights reels, having asked the public not to vote for him. Strange behaviour. 

Lewis Hamilton, standing in front of a Christmas tree, joined by video link. Monaco must be in Tier 4. 

‘Virtual’ might as well apply to Auntie’s coverage of proper live events — as in virtually nothing. Some of us are just about old enough to remember when the likes of Bill McLaren on rugby union, Dan Maskell on tennis, David Coleman on athletics, Harry Carpenter on big fights, Murray Walker on Formula One and Richie Benaud on cricket were guides to our sporting educations.

Tyson Fury was not in attendance after asking to be removed from the public voting

Alas, it was recorded that Peter Alliss, laconic voice of golf as heir to Henry Longhurst, departed this year, bringing an end to the BBC’s golden thread of commentators. 

He took with him, perhaps more than anything else, a vanishing appreciation that sport is an art as well as a science, which is to say it is about more than dry, clinical, technical analysis. It reflects ebb and flow, the human condition. 

Who can hold a candle to these men now? Not many, but their successors don’t have much of an opportunity as the TV pool is hugely diluted.

Given this, is the annual SPOTY jamboree worth persisting with? I wondered every time the pictures came ‘courtesy’ of some other channel.  

Marcus Rashford was honored with the hastily concocted Special Award on Sunday

No Tyson in attendance, but not all was lost. They instead managed to get a live interview with the Prime Minister himself: Mr Marcus Rashford, of Manchester United and England. His well-pitched campaign for free school meals, an act of conscience born of experience, won him the hastily concocted Special Award.

And to another celebrated star of this benighted year, Captain Tom, the undisputed 100-laps Zimmer frame champion of the world. Having taken a promotion, a knighthood and now the Helen Rollason Award, he surely ends 2020 as our most decorated serviceman since Lord Mountbatten.

These well-deserved moments of recognition were immeasurably more welcome than the ludicrous choice of Khabib Nurmagomedov as World Sport Star of the Year, a successor to Muhammad Ali and Usain Bolt.

Nurmagomedov is, as every Sunday evening casual viewer well knows, a leading mixed martial arts fighter, who retired undefeated after 29 contests. He is a Russian to boot and, as we recognise, Russian competitors are always pure Corinthians. What’s not to like? 

Mixed martial arts star Khabib Nurmagomedov won World Sport Star of the Year

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