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Capturing the spirit of 2008

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Roger Mosey | 10:19 UK time, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Some of our BBC Sport offices around Television Centre are beginning to empty as our production team moves to Liverpool for this year's Sports Personality Of The Year.

The set is being installed; rehearsals in the Echo Arena will soon be under way; and then the giants of the sporting world will be converging on Merseyside ready for Sunday night's programme.

As ever, there's plenty of press comment - mainly around the incredibly competitive shortlist for this year's main awards, though there's the usual mixture of wit, wisdom and acid comments about the show itself.

I have no problem with commentators commenting - and people like Marina Hyde always make me laugh in the most positive sense - but it's worth explaining why Sports Personality has changed over the years.

Like all awards programmes, it went into something of a decline in the 2000s. From an average audience of 8.5m in 2003 it fell to 6.2m in 2004 and then to a low of 5.1m in 2005.

That was partly why we changed the format and took the show on the road with the public invited for the first time - with considerable success. We bucked the terrestrial TV trend - almost all programmes have declined in the multichannel era - by increasing the average to 5.9m in 2006 for our first year in Birmingham, and then 6.8m last year. Almost 9m saw Joe Calzaghe pick up his award.

Now, before anyone says it is: it's not just about ratings. It's about celebrating a sporting year and showcasing the big national moments. But equally we'd have been negligent if we allowed SPOTY to go into further decline and end up marginalised on the fringes of the schedule. This is a programme that has to work for a mass audience on BBC One on a Sunday night.

Liverpool's Echo Arena

No Sports Personality is ever without controversy so let me pick up on some issues ahead of the show.

First, there are occasional comments about the fairness of the voting. To be clear, we publish the details about how this works and all the voting is overseen by an independent verification process. We ourselves have no idea who will win on the night, and no votes have been cast until the moment the phone lines open on the show.

Second, there was some debate last year about the fact the event was supported by Robinsons. The BBC Trust upheld some complaints against the programme, but they also gave permission for this year's event once more to be supported by Robinsons as long as it was within the revised guidelines they'd laid down.

We in BBC management have decided that we will not in future have commercial sponsorship of these kind of events - but Robinsons' participation is part of a two-year agreement, and we're grateful to them for their support of the 2008 Sports Personality Event.

Finally, all of us in the team have read and enjoyed the comments made in Carl Doran's blog and in an earlier one from me. We realise that Sports Personality is a major part of the BBC's heritage and it's a show we all want to succeed. It can't do it by standing still, and this year's challenge includes our biggest ever live audience at the venue - getting on for 9000 - and the task of telling the story of an amazing year of sport in just two hours.

We won't be able to include every moment, but we're going to do our best to capture the spirit of 2008 and to provide a little cheer amid the gloom of the daily news agenda. We really hope you enjoy it.


  • Comment number 1.

    Out of interest when exactly did 'Sports Review of the Year' change into the 'Sports Personality of the Year' and the emphasis move from a review to celebrity awards bash?

    My recollection was that it was 2000ish, coincidentally just before the decline started.

  • Comment number 2.

    Roger, a question from me: when will the awards come to London for the public to attend?

    I know that they spent most of their life in London, but this was as a 'private' BBC event with invited guests and BBC personnel. The decision to make it a public event was taken when it was moved to Birmingham, and as such the event hasn't been 'with public attendance' in London. I appreciate you probably want to take it to Scotland/NI/Wales too, but a look in from the UK capital would be good.

    Also, how have you/Carl overcome the issue of opening the lines at the top of the show and then highlighting candidates throughout the duration of the show whilst the lines are open - such that the last candidate receives the smallest amount of time from being showcased to lines closing. (This is about 'on the night showcasing' rather than on the website or One Show).

  • Comment number 3.

    In response to Jordan D #2 Tickets for SPOTY weren't limited to people from Liverpool, anyone could apply (I did even though I'm from Birmingham - I missed out again for the third year running but that's by-the-by).

    People from London can travel outside of the capital to go to events you know! Just as those who live outside the M25 travel to London on a regular basis for many, many, major events of national importance that take place in the city every year.

    I for one celebrate the fact that SPOTY bucks the trend that has virtually major national events in London and hope that its tour around the UK continues for many years to come.

  • Comment number 4.

    "Like all awards programmes....."

    It was supposed to be a REVIEW of the year.

  • Comment number 5.

    angbur has hit the nail on the head, there is life outside London...

  • Comment number 6.

    In response to #3: all well and good, but for those of us who have to work and don't drive, the late finish precludes getting back that night (last train dept is 2048) and enforces a stay in Liverpool (or similar). As you can imagine, this situation isn't an option for everyone - hence my suggestion that the tour includes London.

  • Comment number 7.

    We're thinking about SPOTY in London in the context of the Olympics - so maybe 2011 or 2012. But my personal view is that taking the show to new cities around the UK has been a success and in an ideal world we wouldn't want to lose that.

    On Jordan D's point in #2 about highlighting the candidates. As I've explained in earlier postings, it's important to see the difference between Sports Personality and the X Factor/Strictly Come Dancing. The latter two depend on performance on the night. In the case of Sports Personality, as our blogs and message boards show: most people have made up their mind who to vote for before the programme based on sporting achievement over the year.

    We do try to be fair in the way we present the programme as a whole; and every call to vote does, of course, feature all 10 candidates each time.

  • Comment number 8.

    HI Roger,

    Good blog as always but I see your response above has ignored the questions on why it changed from Sports Review of the Year to an awards show. An awards show is fine if the BBC do a Sport Review of the Year as well. The 5 Live one is brilliant and a TV version would be just as good over Christmas. I'm not a fan of the new format as I am not a fan of awards cermonies but I am a fan of reviewing the sporting year!

  • Comment number 9.

    This year can we please not have any gimmick items like James Toseland playing the piano or Mark Ramprakash dancing.

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree with comment 9. Please no Austin Healey dancing.

  • Comment number 11.

    Roger, I hope that SPOTY can be a good review of the year...the Olympic Year.
    It needs to be a good one...Im sure that the feeling that the BBC Sport offices are being emptied will be the same in 20112 when all of them gets pulled up to Manchester.
    Has next years event venue being chosen?
    Please dont keep it in the North West for 2009, bring it back down to was much better then hauling it up to Liverpool basted purley on the ridculous reason that the City was 2008 European Capital of Culture.
    Bring it back down to Birmingham for 2009, BBC Sport is non exsistent in the Midlands Roger...purely unfair when London and Manchester have BBC Sport in the next few years.

  • Comment number 12.

    RedRedRobin at post 1 ;

    Nice one ! That sums up my feelings exactly, well put!

    It is very sad that it has turned into a celebrity awards bash rather than a review of the sporting year, but, it would be very narrow minded to ignore all the competitive and commercial forces that are at play.

    In order for the event to be viable it needs to be justified , primarily by viewer ratings ( as we saw Mr Mosey refer to). The way to boost the ratings so that the mass big-brother watching public will tune in, is to make it into a show.

    This is the reality, and unfortunately for those like us who arent very happy with it, we cannot point the finger at the BBC but at western society and consumerism in general! Unfortunately the only solution for that is to take a leaf out of Daniel Cohn-Bendit's book (May 1968 Paris student riot) and revolt against capitalism!!

    That being said, (and perhaps on a more serious note) as long as there is an appropriate focus on the sport and the action of the last year, I will be happy. If i see any sign of Strictly Come Dancing encroaching on the show, however, I may very promptly switch over!

    Finally I congratulate the director and editors et al who consistently appear on these blogs, leaving themselves open to abuse by idiots, taking our constructive criticisms and often giving feedback to us on the blogs, it is impressive and appreciated.

  • Comment number 13.

    I did really enjoy the show this evening as per usual, this was of course helped by such an array of winners this year. However, as numerous comments have referred to above, the concentration on the awards aspect and the almost sidelining of the sport events themselves (how can you not actually show the Olympic men's 100m in full for example?) is particularly disappointing.

    Even in such a busy year, the lack of focus on the four major team sports, culminating in a pathetic minute of coverage of rugby league is amazing. Are there any plans for a proper review of 2008 with due focus on each sport? Three hours ought to be enough.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm sorry to sound like a killjoy, but the relevance and enjoyment of Sports Review (nb, NOT personality) has almost entirely disappeared.
    I'm gutted that the elements of the show I used to really enjoy - reliving the sporting highlights of the year - have been replaced with a contrived, over-produced lights and sound show. How many slow-motion montages can we be asked to swallow? The reason why the personalities involved are nominated is because they have achieved great things, usually in dramatic circumstances. Why try and re-engineer these wonderful stories into Hollywood-blockbuster trailors. Show the fleeting moments, those precious few seconds, that created lifetime memories.
    It felt like an indulgent pageant for the production team at the BBC, rather than a celebration of sport for people who love, support and follow these talented people throughout the year.

  • Comment number 15.

    I agree with several other posters, I would rather see more of a proper review like we used to have, and less of an awards ceremony. As a teenager in the early 90s, I used to watch this programme religiously, sometimes even to the extent that I would watch the repeat around New Years Eve as well, and was really into all the sport, and as a Norwich fan getting very excited when the Jeremy Goss UEFA Cup run got a mention.

    One of my favourite parts back then was that there would be, probably about 15 minutes from the end, a roundup of what had happened in all the minor sports, which would highlight things like Brits winning world powerboating or clay pigeon shooting championships or results of netball test series. I think this was set to music. Even if each sport or winner only got a few seconds clip or a photo, accompanied with some text about the result, it really showed the BBC's committment to highlighting ALL sport, even if it was minor and the BBC didn't have the rights to it!

    As for last night, if you accept that it is now an awards ceremony and not the programme that we used to have, it was a pretty enjoyable show in a good venue and well done to all the winners, although one thing I was disappointed with was that the Unsung Hero nomination in the programme only showed a shortlist of three of the local winners, when it would have only taken another minute or two to give a much-deserved brief spell in the national spotlight for all 15 of them, and other awards (like team of the year) had shortlists of more than three. Unfortunately this seems like another case of disregarding the little guys.

    Anyway, my husband and I thought that the solution to this would be the following.

    Have BOTH a SPOTY in current awards-ceremony-type format on BBC One, although being careful to not reduce the sports content even more....

    ....AND a more factual Sports Review of the Year, which is likely to be a BBC2 programme (or could be BBC3 if in the evening) which could be shown either early evening before SPOTY, or more likely, in the daytime New Years Eve or one of the evenings between Christmas and New Year. Just like the old Sports Review of the Year used to be repeated around then.

    The Sports Review would show all the events as proper sport (so no arty-style presentation, that can stay on SPOTY), so there would be room for the 100m Olympic final in full there, and maybe the 200m as well! And, crucial to this, the return of the sequence with a roundup of minor sports....basically, try and include a mention of every single recognised sport, whether the BBC normally cover it or not; after all everyone successful deserves their moment in the spotlight sometime!

  • Comment number 16.


    Can anyone tell me the background music to Rebecca Adlington's 'Miss Nobody' feature during SPOTY.

    Thank you

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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