BBC has to match judgement on 2012 sports awards

NORMAN GILLER highlights the irony of a journalism prize being awarded to someone for whom the organisers bent the rules, and praises Barbara Slater for adding balance to the BBC’s annual sport review

Watched over by Jim Rosenthal, Sebastian Coe, the chairman of LOCOG, collects the JL Manning Award for services to sport from SJA vice chairman David Walker at last week’s British Sports Awards. Picture by Steve Rowe/SJA

Rules is rules. What’s the point of having them if you are not going to abide by them? This is my reaction to the spat between powerhouse SJA member Tom Clarke and the Press Gazette over their naming of David Walsh as Sports Journalist of the Year.

I am an admirer of both Tom Clarke and PG Editor Dominic Ponsford. Both are journalists who always promote integrity and honesty as a priority.

In the current climate (in any climate), we all have to be seen to be squeaky clean and being truthful at all times, otherwise our beloved old profession is going to be savaged even more than in recent months.

David Walsh deserves an award for his work over more than a decade in pursuit of Lance Armstrong … but, a bit like the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, it is collected under a cloud of suspicion.

I wonder if anybody has yet considered the irony that Walsh has managed to win a competition after the “governing body” bent their own rules to suit him? Armstrong was not available for comment.

In the near-50 years I have known him, Tom Clarke has always been a journalist of high principle. A role model for all you youngsters out there.

He assures me that he did not ask to be excluded from the judging panel following the disagreement. But he continues to want to be disassociated from the sports journalism award.

Mind you, no matter how you read it, David Walsh deserved an award. But like the cyclists he writes about with such authority and style, he should have stuck to the rules.

That’s my judgement, and Giller rules are not for changing.

NOW THAT WE SPORTSWRITERS have had our say – arise Bradley Wiggins and Jessica Ennis –  it is over to the BBC to see whom the public come up with as the Sports Personality of the Year. They will decide by telephone vote during the SPOTY show next Sunday, December 16.

Their shortlist of 12 contenders has the usual suspects who all featured in the glittering SJA awards ceremony at The Tower on Wednesday: Nicola Adams, Ben Ainslie, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Katherine Grainger, Sir Chris Hoy, Rory McIlroy, Andy Murray, Ellie Simmonds, Sarah Storey, David Weir and Bradley Wiggins.

The BBC show is under the balanced and expert command of Barbara Slater. It seems like only yesterday I was welcoming her to the Beeb as a young reporter in my days as a TV sports columnist back in the early 1980s.

Barbara was fresh from the gymnasium where she had been an outstanding competitor, following in the international sporting footsteps of her dad, Bill Slater, the former Wolves and England dynamo and one of the nicest gentlemen you could wish to meet in an era when he chose to play as an amateur. Earlier this year, Barbara was interviewed in depth by Janine Self about her sporting background in the special magazine produced by the SJA for those covering the Olympic Games.

Barbara Slater: in charge of BBC Sport’s output

Now, as Director of BBC Sport, Barbara is in charge, the first woman to be trusted with that responsibility. She is bringing order to this year’s SPOTY show, where last year there was controversy because of a shortlist that did not include a single (or married) sportswoman.

This time around the public are going to be tested like never before, and if they feel confused they can blame the following expert panel that selected the runners and riders:

Philip Bernie, BBC head of TV Sport
Carl Doran, executive editor SPOTY
Eleanor Oldroyd, presenter, 5 live Sport
Sports Editors Mike Dunn (The Sun), Lee Clayton (Daily Mail) and Matthew Hancock (The Observer)
Sue Mott, freelance journalist
Plus three former SPOTY nominees Sir Steve Redgrave, Baroness Grey-Thompson and Denise Lewis
Baroness Campbell, chair of UK Sport

They did well to come up with their golden dozen in arguably the greatest British sporting year of all time, but triathlon gold medallist Alistair Brownlee and cycling’s double gold medal-winning cyclist Laura Trott – third in the ballot of SJA members – are desperately unlucky to have missed the cut.

Let’s see what the public think. Will they agree with us know-it-all sports journalists? I have a sneaking feeling that emotion could come in to play, with the effervescent Ellie Simmonds causing some golden ripples.

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