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What's the point of gongs?

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Ben Gallop Ben Gallop | 17:43 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2007

Awards ceremonies are a modern phenomenon. But what's it all about, this desire to honour achievement with a knees-up and a statuette?

Inevitably, your view of the value of awards has a fair bit to do with what side of the fence you’re sitting on. To put it another way, if you win one it feels like a highly significant event; a fair and objective vindication of all your wondrous achievements. But if you’re nominated and don’t end up winning, awards are suddenly just the by-product of cynical stich-ups by clueless committees in smoked-filled rooms. And who wants their useless gongs anyway?

I have to confess that today I’m veering towards the first description. When I woke this morning, awards felt to me hugely important. But that was for no other reason than that the BBC’s World Cup website had just been honoured at the Sport Industry Awards.

Don’t worry, I’ll get over it and in an hour or two I’ll realise once again that these things are a complete irrelevance and that the real rewards of public service broadcasting come from providing output that the audience appreciates. That’s what gives us the buzz – not some spurious victory at a black tie schmooze-fest full of marketing execs and sponsorship wonks.

But enough with the BBC hairshirt - a lot of people worked long and hard to make our World Cup site a success. So let's indulge ourselves for a moment and I'll give you a brief insight into what these events are like…

The Sport Industry Awards have grown in the last few years from relatively humble beginnings and now have a genuine sense of occasion – no doubt helped last night by the presence of an array of celebs. Thierry Henry, Gary Neville and, er, Chris Tarrant were among the stars on show.

But top of the bill were the Beckhams. With them there and the inevitable media circus that surrounds them, the whole night was in danger of disappearing up its own celebrity-obsessed firmament – but I won’t deny they provided an extra dose of glamour to an otherwise routine affair.

The BBC Sport website was honoured in the highly prestigious (yes OK, that’s my own personal description) “Best Use of Digital Media” category. Our award was presented by two England cricketers who are currently not required by the one-day squad in the Caribbean, Alistair Cook and Geraint Jones. And top lads they seemed too, as we chatted afterwards in the strange backstage area where they usher you for the pictures and glad-handing. “Well played in the Ashes, mate,” I ventured to Cook (feeling on safer ground on that one than with Jones, to be frank). “Well not really…” he countered with an endearing honesty you don’t often find in top sportsmen.

We bade farewell to Cook and Jones and immediately ran into Alistair Campbell – sadly not the one-time Zimbabwe batsman, but the former Downing Street spin-meister. One of my colleagues, a Preston fan, decided to taunt the Burnely-supporting Campbell with some football banter. Campbell, perhaps unsurprisingly, hit back in robust fashion and some good-natured, if not exactly high-brow, Lancastrian rivalry ensued.

My colleague had the final word (some line about David Nugent being the future of English football, I think) and was very pleased with what he clearly saw as an intellectual victory over a renowned political bruiser. But I wasn’t convinced. “I’d have been a bit more impressed if you’d heckled him about dodgy dossiers, instead of Championship football,” I said attempting to prick his Prestonian bubble.

Becks stole the show, of course, when he picked up his Outstanding Contribution to British Sport award and was given a video tribute from a pair of his biggest fans - Tony Blair and Sir Alex Ferguson - followed by a standing ovation from the great and the good, who were probably just relieved there weren't any more categories to run through.

So after a long night, is it all worth it, I ask myself - this industry back-slapping and vacuous celebration? I don't intend to get too hung up on the philosophical emptiness of awards - because, as Steve McClaren will tell you, a win's a win after all...

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