Opinion: Exclusion of Kent and Rea from SPOTY an insult

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This weekend sees the annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards taking place in Belfast. Usually an event that celebrates the very best in British sporting success, this year’s event has been mired in controversy and criticism from the moment the shortlist of nominees was unveiled.

The inclusion of world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury following his misogynistic and homophobic rantings created a predictable furore but the omission of Britain’s two 2015 motorcycling world champions, Danny Kent and Jonathan Rea, is an insulting slight.

22 year old Kent became the first British Grand Prix champion in 38 years with his victory in the Moto3 class. Much has been made in BBC Sport’s Personality competitions about the fact that various nominees such as Andy Murray have achieved something that has eluded British sports stars for a very long time. As the first British rider since Barry Sheene in 1977 to lift a GP title, Kent certainly ticked that box.

Neither was Kent’s success achieved on a single day in a single competition as some others on the nominees list were. His title was battled out over 18 long and arduous races scattered around the globe. During the campaign the Wiltshire lad won six races and took three more podiums to beat off fierce opposition.

Some might suggest that Kent’s achievement did not come in the premier class of Grand Prix racing but there are nominees in this year’s shortlist who didn’t win anything at all in 2015.

Motorcycle racing is often dismissed as being a niche sport, something that is blamed for the sport’s champions being overlooked in events like the BBC awards. Rugby league, gymnastics and women’s soccer could hardly be described as ‘mainstream’ and all three have nominees in this year’s listings.

Mystifying as Kent’s exclusion from the shortlist may be, the decision to overlook 2015 World Superbike champion, Jonathan Rea is equally baffling.

The Northern Irishman exemplifies everything that is required to be a true and inspiring world champion.

Beginning his career as a 16 year old, Rea has battled his way through the ranks of British Superbikes, World Supersport and Superbikes during the last decade to reach the highest pinnacle of his sport. Having overcome serious injury and the disadvantage of often being on inferior machinery, Rea has risen to become the very best in the world.

Shrugging off the disappointment and criticism he has  often endured, Rea totally dominated the 2015 World Superbike series. Winning 14 of the 26 races he fended off a massive challenge from his own Kawasaki teammate and reigning world champion, Tom Sykes, the 28 year old finally took the world title.

During the biggest moment of his racing career, Rea honoured the great motorcycle racing tradition that he is now so proudly a part of by donning the helmets of former Ulster born world champions Brian Reid and Joey Dunlop during his celebrations. 

Much has been made of Belfast’s hosting of this year’s BBC awards and it would have been hoped that the unparalleled achievements of a local star like Rea would have been given some consideration when it came to drawing up the final shortlist of candidates. However, not only was the Northern Irishman overlooked for the national nominations, but he also lost out in the broadcaster’s Northern Ireland’s Sport’s Personality awards to an amateur boxer.

Neither Danny Kent nor Jonathan Rea have made any comment about the snubs but the pair must be gutted to find their brilliant world championship achievements overlooked in favour of much more questionable inclusions. British bike sport been denied a well deserved moment in the sun and the exclusion of both of our motorcycling world champions from the shortlist of nominees is not just an insult, it reduces this year’s BBC Sport’s Personality awards to a hollow travesty.

Stephen Davison

By Stephen Davison

Biographer of John McGuinness & road racing's foremost writer & photographer