Carl Frampton: SPOTY selection 'anti-NI and anti-boxing'
The BBC's Sports Personality of the Year selection is anti-Northern Ireland and anti-boxing, says WBA featherweight world champion Carl Frampton.
Frampton was omitted from a shortlist of 16 for the SPOTY award, which was announced on Monday night.
He won the WBA title by beating the previously undefeated Mexican Leo Santa Cruz in New York in July.
Sports Minister Paul Givan has written to the head of BBC Sport about the "surprising" absence of NI athletes.
In his letter, he refers specifically to Frampton, world superbike champion Jonathan Rea and Paralympics triple gold medallist swimmer Bethany Firth.
"There are many examples of Northern Ireland athletes excelling in 2016... but I am particularly surprised that Bethany Firth was not shortlisted," he wrote.
"Her medal haul made her not only the most successful Team GB Paralympian in Rio but the United Kingdom's most decorated athlete at the Rio Games."
He said it was important that he put his "frustration and disappointment" on record.
"The rationale for the omission of such successful athletes is something that I, and the Northern Ireland public, would ask to be explained in full," he added.
Frampton, who beat England's Scott Quigg to add the WBA super-bantamweight title to his own IBF title, told BBC NI's The Nolan Show he would have been on the shortlist had he been English.
"I feel like there's people on that list that I deserved to be on, in front of," said the 28-year-old Belfast man.
"Andy Murray's going to run away with it, he's going to win it and deservedly so, but I still feel out of the 16 I would like to have got in."
Frampton said Rea and Firth could also have been included.
"What it looks to me is maybe anti-boxing and maybe anti-Northern Ireland, who knows. I'm not going to cry about it, I'll get on with my career," he said.
"No-one's on it from Northern Ireland - there's five Yorkshire men on it. I feel that one of the three that I mentioned should have got on."
'How can you ignore that?'
The awards, which were held in Belfast last year, do include one boxer on the shortlist, Nicola Adams, who won a flyweight gold in the Rio Olympics.
In response, the BBC said: "In what has been an extraordinary year of sport, many contenders were considered and debated by an expert industry panel, who by consensus agreed on the shortlist."
Frampton's manager, former SPOTY winner Barry McGuigan, said Frampton's absence from the shortlist was "shocking".
Though he acknowledged it had been an "exceptional" year for UK sporting talent, but said Frampton still merited a place on the shortlist.
"Frampton has been monumental this year and they've just disregarded that and it's shocking and upsetting for me as a former winner," he said.
"He went out to America, he beat a three-weight division world champion - an unbeaten three-weight world champion - in his own country. He unified the title in February at super bantamweight.
"How can you ignore that? I know there are many people who have done great things, there's no question about that, but you cannot ignore what Frampton has done and that is a shocking absence.
McGuigan said it appeared to be a case of "out of sight, out of mind" in regards to professional boxing on the BBC, adding that the Frampton team would be boycotting the programme as a result.
"I'm just so gutted for Carl Frampton, he may never have another year like this. To not even be ranked, we feel is below the belt," he said.
Who decides the shortlist?
The shortlist is compiled by a 12-member panel:
- Representatives from BBC Sport: Barbara Slater (Director, BBC Sport), Philip Bernie (Head of TV Sport) and Carl Doran (Executive Editor, BBC Sports Personality of the Year)
- Former nominees of an award: Ryan Giggs, Victoria Pendleton and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson
- Representative from BBC Radio 5 live: Amy Lawrence
- Pan-sports broadcaster: Ore Oduba
- Representatives from sports journalism: David James (Sunday Mirror/Sunday People), Adam Sills (Daily/Sunday Telegraph) and Alison Kervin (Mail on Sunday)
- Representative from UK sports industry: Liz Nicholl (Chief Executive, UK Sport)
Asked about the issue in the assembly on Tuesday, First Minister Arlene Foster said she was "not amused" by the absence of Frampton, Firth and Rea from the shortlist, describing the omissions as "scandalous".
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said he would raise the issue in Parliament through an early day motion.
"We're talking about a double motorcycle racing world champion, we're talking about a double weight world champion in boxing, we're talking about Bethany Firth, a phenomenal athlete," he said.
"What about the two Rorys [McIlroy and Best]? These people meet the criteria in bagloads and they've been ignored."