BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2021: England! Catriona Matthew, Solheim Cup team and golf deserved so much better ...

Utter bollocks! That was my initial reaction to the team element of BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year and, even allowing for the dust to settle, I’m sticking with that verdict.

Team Europe Captain Catriona Matthew led her charges to Solheim Cup glory.
Team Europe Captain Catriona Matthew led her charges to Solheim Cup glory.

In case you missed it, the award went to the England men’s football team, the one that actually didn’t win anything after losing on home soil in the delayed Euro 2020 competition to Italy.

Apparently, that decision was made by a panel of experts and, quite frankly, they should be hanging their heads in shame right now.

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In football alone, there were more worthy winners. St Johnstone, for example, after Calum Davidson’s side pulled off a sensational historic cup double in the Scottish game in 2021.

Leicester City also winning the FA Cup for the first time was a noteworthy achievement, as was Chelsea bouncing back from a disappointing defeat in that game to win the Champions League final a few days later.

More recently, Chelsea won the Women’s FA Cup to complete a domestic treble for the first time in the club’s history.

So, please don’t tell me there were no other options for that panel and that’s before we’ve even started to bring Europe’s Solheim Cup team into the equation.

Given the dramatic circumstances of the win at Gleneagles in 2019 as it came down to Suzann Pettersen, a captain’s pick, holing the final putt on the final green, it was unfortunate that Catriona Matthew’s side lost out to the English cricket team on that occasion.

That history repeated itself, but on this occasion to a team that actually didn’t even win anything is a joke, especially when you consider the nature of Europe’s latest Solheim Cup success in September.

Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions in place at the time, Catriona Matthew’s team had very few fans supporting them at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, yet they overcame that to record just a second win on US soil in the biennial event.

The team, for the record, included three English players in Charley Hull, Georgia Hall and Mel Reid, as well as Ireland’s Lena Maguire, who was a superstar on her debut in the match.

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As victories go, it was up there with the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in the 2012 Ryder Cup and that’s why I, for one, actually switched on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year programme on Sunday night.

Like many others, I’d given up on it in recent years, having felt it had become more about glitz and glamour than sporting achievement, but, foolishly in hindsight, I turned on BBC 1 on this occasion.

To be honest, I partly blame - I'm joking, of course - Matthew for that, having seen a picture posted on social media of her and Kathryn Imrie, one of her vice-captains in those two wins, heading to the bash. That made me think it could be a good night for golf, but, instead, it turned into the sport receiving another slap in the face from the BBC.

Don’t get me wrong. The Beeb has one of the best golf correspondents in the business in Iain Carter while Brian McLauchlin does a great job getting as much coverage possible for the likes of Bob MacIntyre, Grant Forrest and Calum Hill here in Scotland.

However, golf just doesn’t seem to cut it these days with people in power within “Auntie” and, as a result of that, more and more people are starting to let off steam.

My initial post about the England men’s football team winning the award has sent my Twitter account into meltdown, having attracted 1,400 likes in less than 24 hours and created close to 130,000 impressions.

It’s made some people very angry and even more so due to the fact Gareth Southgate, the England manager, also walked away with the Coach of the Year Award.

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I get that some people don’t think that Matthew filled a coaching role, but neither did Colin Montgomerie or Paul McGinley yet it didn’t stop them picking up that particular prize for winning Ryder Cup captaincies in 2010 and 2014 respectively.

I’d say Matthew’s captaincy on this occasion surpassed either of those achievements. Yes, she’d already proved herself two years earlier on Scottish soil, where a bold decision to pick Pettersen had been well and truly vindicated.

But the magnitude of the task this time around was enormous, bearing in mind that Europe had only won on US soil once before in the Solheim Cup and also due to the fact that no European captain had recorded back-to-back victories before.

Yes, she might not have had anything to feel aggrieved about if she’d lost out to a coach who’d been instrumental in a gold-medal winning performance by a British athlete in this year’s Olympics in Japan and, let’s face, it we did pretty well in what is widely regarded as sports biggest event.

But, for many people no doubt, it will be the final straw for SPOTY that the North Berwick woman lost out to someone who, and I actually think Southgate is a decent bloke, failed to deliver a success his nation had both demanded and, in lots of cases, expected.

Here’s hoping that Catriona Matthew and other golfers decide to never darken the event’s doors again because, quite frankly, they and the sport they represent deserve better.

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