BBC Sports Personality Of The Year represents the inequality women still face

Watching Hollie Doyle, the 24-year-old jockey sensation, miss out on last night’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award (BBC SPOTY) to Lewis Hamilton was probably one of the least shocking things to happen in this unpredictable, car crash of a year.

Not because Doyle isn’t a fantastic athlete – she’s coming off the back of another record-breaking year where she outmatched her previous record of number of races won by a British woman jockey.

It’s because women rarely get recognition at these glamorous ego boosting occasions. In fact sportswomen rarely get the recognition they deserve at all.

BBC SPOTY, while in many ways just a pointless popularity contest, is a reflection of the British sporting landscape. In the world of sports media, women rarely get attention unless they’ve gone so far above and beyond the achievements of their male counterparts that they can grab a place on the back page.

Doyle, who came in third place, was the only woman named on the shortlist and it marked the first time in a decade that there had been so few women in contention for the fan-voted prize.

Since the BBC SPOTY award was introduced in 1954, only 13 women have won it – just nine in the last 40 years – and no woman has won since Zara Tindall, then Phillips, took the prize in 2006.

In the 60s, there was a three-year stretch of sportswomen winning, swimmer Anita Lonsbrough, sprinter Dorothy Hyman and long jumper Mary Rand, in 1963, ’64 and ’65, respectively.

Looking back, it seems like that must have been the peak for women’s sport, despite recent Rugby World Cup, Solheim Cup, netball Commonwealth gold, cricket World Cup victories and numerous world titles and medals for British sportswomen.

After a record-breaking 2019, where viewing figures for women’s sport were smashed and millions were talking about women’s football, netball and athletics, progress has seemingly stalled

It’s even tougher for women to get recognition in a year where all the major sports events they were due to be taking part in, most of which would have been shown on free-to-air-television, have been cancelled or postponed, including the Olympics and Paralympics, The Hundred, WSeries and Wimbledon.

In a good year, women’s sport can only expect to account for, at most, 10% of sport coverage and as little as 4%, in the UK, according to a 2018 study by the charity Women in Sport. 

The list of women who have missed out on the top award is a who’s who of British sporting icons: Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Dina Asher-Smith, Rebecca Adlington, Denise Lewis and Maggie Alphonsi.

Even when women reach the zenith of their chosen discipline, it appears that their achievements still count as lesser compared to a male counterpart. And it’s not surprising that this list also includes a lot of Black women, who are consistently under-represented in every part of the British sport.

This week, England and Manchester City footballer Lucy Bronze, who is a three-time Uefa Women’s Champions League winner and Ballon D’or runner up, won Fifa’s Best Award for the top women’s footballer in the world – but she didn’t even make the BBC’s six-person shortlist.

After a record-breaking 2019, where viewing figures for women’s sport were smashed and millions were talking about women’s football, netball and athletics, progress has seemingly stalled.

Women barely feature in the British sporting highlights of 2020 – though that’s hardly surprising as the majority of women’s sport was forgotten about when plans were being made to bring back sport mid-pandemic.

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