Sweeping SPOTY changes to foil vote-rigging and clear more time

The BBC has announced some radical changes to the format of its Sports Personality of the Year show in Birmingham on 16 December.

Host Gabby Logan introduces the 2017 Sports Personality of the Year winner Sir Mo Farah during last years show in Liverpool. Picture: David Davies/PA
Host Gabby Logan introduces the 2017 Sports Personality of the Year winner Sir Mo Farah during last years show in Liverpool. Picture: David Davies/PA

For the first time, the shortlist for the main prize will be announced at the start of the programme and not three weeks in advance, as has happened in the past.

The shortlist will also be trimmed to just six names, considerably shorter than in recent years when there have been between 10 and 16 stars nominated.

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Speaking in Birmingham, Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said: “We’ve had a concern around the amount of time we have to tell the story of the sporting year. We’ve had some extraordinary sporting occasions that we’ve had to condense into seconds.

“It used to be called the Sports Review of the Year with an award at the end of it but I think, as the number of nominees has grown, it’s been more led by individuals than the tale of the sporting year. So the aim has been to get that balance back.”

The move should also reduce the influence of social media-led lobbying campaigns behind nominees, as well as adding to the drama of the night, as it will now open and close with what Slater described as “big reveals”.

Gabby Logan, who will co-host the show again with Clare Balding and Gary Lineker, explained that by cutting the shortlist they are also reducing the number of films they have to fit in which recap each nominee’s achievements, as well as on-stage interviews.

“I think last year we only had 90 seconds to review the entire rugby season,” said Logan. “These changes will give us more space to really reflect on the whole year, as well as giving us another gasp moment at the top of the show.”

As before, the shortlist will be chosen by a panel of experts in November and the winner will be decided during a 25-minute public voting 
window on the night.

In other changes to the programme, now in its 65th year, the Overseas Sports Personality of the Year will be rebranded as World Sports Star of the Year, while the Young Sports Personality of the Year prize will move to the Radio 1 Teen Awards on October 21.

The six nominees for the World Sports Star of the Year will be chosen by the panel but its six-strong shortlist will be announced before the show. And, in another first, voting for this award will be opened up to overseas voters.

There will also be a new prize for the Greatest Sporting Moment of the Year. Its shortlist will be announced on The One Show a few weeks before the event.

The format for the programme’s other prizes – Coach of the Year, the Helen Rollason award, Lifetime Achievement, Team of the Year and Unsung Hero – remain unchanged.

Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas is the favourite to follow Sir Mo Farah’s 2017 success, with Harry Kane, Alastair Cook and Lewis Hamilton among the contenders for the main award.