There may be a furore over Fury's participation in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, but on Thursday London will host a less contentious sports awards, with a longer pedigree than Auntie's dogged bash.
The Sports Writers’ Association — now the Sports Journalists’ Association — was formed in 1948, after the second London Olympics, and has been staging its awards since 1949 — five years before the BBC’s Paul Fox and Peter Dimmock put together what was first called the Sports Review of the Year.
Indeed, it was the very existence of the sports writers’ Sportsman of the Year, and a similar trophy then presented by the Daily Express, which forced the BBC to call their prize the Sports Personality of the Year — a useful non-gender specific title but one which has seen the BBC become bogged down in controversy almost annually over how it chooses its shortlist of contenders.
It was the very existence of the sports writers’ Sportsman of the Year... which forced the BBC to call their prize the Sports Personality of the Year
The Sports Journalists’ Association (SJA) will have no such concerns when it comes to naming its Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of 2015 at a lunchtime ceremony in Covent Garden on Thursday, three days before the BBC’s prize-giving in Belfast.
The SJA prizes are determined by an open vote among their 700-plus members — the country’s sports writers, editors, photographers and broadcasters.
Confirmed as attending the SJA’s 2015 British Sports Awards are world champions Jessica Ennis-Hill, Lizzie Armitstead and Max Whitlock; members of Britain’s victorious Davis Cup tennis and Ashes cricket teams; Steph Houghton and players from the England women’s football squad who finished third in the World Cup; and Alex Danson and her England hockey team mates who won the European title. There will be Olympic gold medallists Lizzy Yarnold, Katherine Grainger and Greg Rutherford, while past winners including Lewis Hamilton, Andy Murray and AP McCoy are all on the invite list, together with many of the great and the good from the media and sport, including the FA’s Greg Dyke, sports minister Tracey Crouch and the SJA’s outgoing President, Sir Michael Parkinson.
But one person who won’t be there is Tyson Fury, boxing’s new heavyweight champion of the world.
Even Fury’s inclusion on the BBC’s SPoTY shortlist caused controversy, after his offensive remarks about women and homosexuality. Long jumper Rutherford, who this year completed the “full house” of world, Olympic, Commonwealth and European gold medals, even threatened to pull out of the BBC event altogether if Fury was included.
Fury had his invitation to the SJA event withdrawn by the organisers on Wednesday, after the giant 6ft 6in boxer posted a menacing video threatening violence against one of the Association’s members, Oliver Holt, the chief sports writer of the Mail on Sunday. “We feel that it would be incompatible with the nature of our event, or the interests of our members, our other guests and our sponsors, for us to continue to extend a welcome to Tyson Fury to our awards next week,” a spokesman for the SJA said.
We feel that it would be incompatible with the nature of our event... to extend a welcome to Tyson Fury to our awards next week
The SJA also claim to be innovators, having introduced their Sportswoman award three years before a woman won SPoTY for the first time. Indeed, only 13 women have ever won Sports Personality, for which, in 2015, there are just three women on the 12-strong short-list. Whoever succeeds Jo Pavey as the SJA’s Sportswoman of the Year will be the 57th in a very distinguished list.
The SJA was also the first to recognise what we call today Paralympic sport, from 1963.
And while the all-singing, all-dancing BBC awards are staged with a budget of several hundred thousand pounds from the TV licence, with star presenters such as Gary Lineker and Clare Balding fronting a production staff of dozens, the SJA’s committee of volunteers put on their 400-guest charity awards lunch together with the full-time help of a two-person team from Croydon-based company Start2Finish Events.
"And we’d sell tickets to anyone, even the BBC,” a SJA spokesman said. “Just not, for the time being, to Tyson Fury."