Jonathan Rea’s absence from the shortlist fropm which the Sports Personality of the Year will be chosen has caused an outcry in Northern Ireland.
Racing legends Jeremy McWilliams and Philip McCallen have condemned the BBC decision to exclude him in favour of competitors from athletics, rugby, cricket, football and motor racing.
“It’s a bloody disgrace,” McWilliams told the Belfast Telegraph, calling for fans to boycott next Sunday’s show. ”For a world champion and someone who has finished first five times in a row, never achieved before, to be overlooked has upset the whole racing fraternity.”
McCallen described the omission as “a big insult to Jonathan and to sport worldwide. This should have been his year after winning five world championships - we have all lost faith in this award.”
But it was Rea finishing runner-up in 2017 which caused the BBC to change the voting system. Rea attracted 80,000 votes from the fans of what the BBC considered a minority sport, believing their viewers had never heard of it. Indeed one national newspaper did not mention Rea by name, describing him merely and probably disparagingly as a motorcyclist.
So the Beeb decided to have a panel of “experts” to decide who should be considered and who shouldn’t. Motor cycle racing, a sport they do not cover, is not included. Not appearing on SPOTY, the winners of which have usually had a personality by-pass, is not likely to cause the Rea household to lose sleep, especially as they will probably be in their house in Philip Island by then.