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A festive treat

Roger Mosey | 15:14 UK time, Friday, 8 December 2006

When I was growing up, the BBC Sports Review of the Year was one of the first signs of Christmas.

This was a time - difficult to believe, I know - when shops didn't start selling mince pies in September and when my dad put up the Christmas tree a couple of days before Santa was due, as opposed to people festooning their homes in fairylights as soon as Bonfire Night's over.

So a Sunday night in December was the real signal that the year was ending and it was time for a festive review of great sport.

In the 1960s when I was a kid, there were some inevitable winners of the main award: Bobby Moore in 1966, Ann Jones in the year she won Wimbledon.

But it was always a great moment when that music played and the winner held up the Sports Personality trophy.

If you look at the list of title holders, it's truly a record of the United Kingdom's sporting heritage.

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So spool forward now to 2006, and the show is on the road for the first time.

We've had a tremendous amount of co-operation from the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, and from organisations and councils in the region - so we're delighted to be heading up there from our normal base at Television Centre in London.

We don't even mind that Network Rail has scheduled engineering works and we're sure the bus from Rugby to Birmingham International will be very comfortable...

This is, of course, a different world in all sorts of ways from the 1960s or from the show's birth in 1954 (winner Chris Chataway).

We use all the BBC's output these days to support the award: Radio Five Live to nominate Team Of The Year and to interview the contenders; Breakfast television on BBC One to put Chris Hollins through his paces with nominee Joe Calzaghe; and this website to help with nominations and to debate the issues on our blog and messageboards.

But this brings with it a challenge - the balance between the maximum possible public participation and the fairness of outcome.

My colleague Carl Doran has posted here a number of times about the process, and as head of sport this year I said the key thing for BBC Sport was to offer the utmost transparency and honesty about how the awards are chosen.

However, the dilemma is between offering as many ways of voting as possible and as long a time to do it - versus the fact that gives more opportunity for internet campaigns and attempts to, ahem, influence the vote.

That's why we went for a twin-track approach this year on the main award: getting the nominations from a mix of (mainly) newspaper sports editors and a limited public vote, but then offering an expanded shortlist from which the public alone will choose the winner.

The lines will be open for two hours, but the sheer volume of calls is a guarantee of a fair outcome: hundreds of thousands of people take part, and we believe in the wisdom of crowds.

No system is perfect, but frankly this is light years better than the old system of voting coupons and postcards - when in many such contests the turnout was surprisingly low.

I remember as editor of the Today programme when we ran our own News Personality Of The Year award that the number of nominations was often only in the hundreds; and one year we were surprised to receive a batch of postcards in identical handwriting all nominating the same individual and all with a House Of Commons postmark.

When I rang the MP concerned, there was a heartfelt profession of innocence: "What, I've been nominated for an award? How wonderful - I didn't know!" So let us not imagine that the past was an age of purity.

Instead, let's hope we get a worthy winner on Sunday evening.

As head of sport I am, of course, neutral; but I'm delighted that the openness of the race has led to some nominees from minority sports.

I'd also like to put on the record that I'm very pleased to see Phil Taylor and Joe Calzaghe there, since they have been known to say the BBC is prejudiced against PDC darts or boxing respectively.

I would be happy with any of the 10 as winners, so now it really is up to you to make the decision. Stand by your phones at 7pm on Sunday.

Check out the contenders

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