Fifty Years of Hurt. BBC Has a History of Honouring the Wrong Sports Star; SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR Two-Day Special on the Heroes Who Missed Out

The Evening Standard (London, England), December 11, 2003 | Go to article overview

Fifty Years of Hurt. BBC Has a History of Honouring the Wrong Sports Star; SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR Two-Day Special on the Heroes Who Missed Out


Byline: PETER NICHOLS

EXPECT your television set to radiate sporting nostalgia on Sunday night when the BBC announces the result of its poll of polls to decide the sports personality of the past 50 years. The special award will be given alongside the naming of this year's winner. We can hardly wait.

The only certainty is that, if the past half-century is anything to go by, the BBC will probably settle on the wrong name. Because, with unerring accuracy, it has usually handed over the silver camera to an undeserving set of hands.

The BBC insists it is merely the conduit for the popular vote. Perhaps it is right, but the truth is that last year was the first when it actually published the results of the voting and for decades dark rumours have circulated about the whole process. Was the shortlist drawn up on the basis of sports the BBC covered? Why has football produced so few winners?

Was 1958 the most shocking sporting miscarriage ever?

So here, for the first time, Standard Sport publishes the full list of those that should have won each year. In a few cases the BBC got it right - and we are happy to give it credit for those rare occasions - but generally it has been way off the mark . . .

Expect Henry Cooper to win hands down on Sunday.

1954 WINNER: Christopher Chataway ALTERNATIVE WINNER: Roger Bannister The four-minute mile was one of the defining sporting moments of the 20th century, but not enough to earn Bannister the inaugural award which went to one of his menials - Chataway being a mere pacemaker in the famous run. Even in terms of personality (which has sometimes been used as justification), you'd chose the cerebral Bannister (who became a neurosurgeon) ahead of the affable Chataway (a politician). Even Chataway admitted: "It seems pretty odd."

He took the award for beating Vladimir Kuts in a 5,000metres duel, just a few weeks before the voting.

1955 WINNER: Gordon Pirie ALTERNATIVE: Frank Tyson Tyson took 28 wickets to ensure England brought the Ashes back from Australia, but it wasn't enough for the big award. Instead Typhoon Tyson took second-best to distance runner Puff-Puff Pirie, who beat the 1952 triple Olympic champion Emil Zatopek in a race at White City.

1956 WINNER: Jim Laker ALTERNATIVE: None Dour Jim was not overloaded with pzazz, but his 19 wickets at Old Trafford against the Australians deservedly won him the award. Chris Brasher, the Olympic steeplechase champion, was probably next best.

1957 WINNER: Dai Rees ALTERNATIVE: P B H May Rees led Britain to a third Ryder Cup win over the United States, but in those days the only people who played golf were BBC executives and a few chaps from Northwood. The rest of the country was thrilled by Peter May's exploits. He led England to a 3-0 series win against the West Indies (hitting 285 not out in the Second Test) and enjoyed a series win against South Africa.

1958 WINNER: Ian Black ALTERNATIVE: Mike Hawthorn This really was a non-starter. Black was a good enough swimmer to win European titles at 400m and 1500m freestyle, but he didn't cut the mustard at the Commonwealth Games when he came up against Australia's John Konrads. Hawthorn was the first British Formula One champion.

1959 WINNER: John Surtees ALTERNATIVE: None Surtees deserved to win the award at some point, being the first (and only) man to win world titles on two wheels and four. However, this award came after only his second world bike title, and Allan Jay should have run him close. World fencing titles don't come cheap and Jay remains the only Briton to win the world foil title.

Close, but we'll go with the Beeb.

1960 WINNER: David Broome ALTERNATIVE: Anita Lonsbrough Showjumper Broome finished just third at the Rome Olympics but Britain had two individual gold medallists at the same Games. Don Thompson trained in his bathroom for the 50km walk, which he won, but he would not have expected to have been ranked above Lonsbrough, who took the 200m breaststroke in a world record. …

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