Opinion: SPOTY nominations reflect motorcycling as a niche
There’s been a huge uproar in the biking community in recent weeks, since the BBC announced their shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year, due to be held tonight and notably not including any of the British World Champions from motorcycling crowned this year.
In a piece penned last night, my colleague Stephen Davison made the argument as to why it was insulting to Danny Kent and Jonathan Rea to be not included in the twelve-person line-up due to be cut down to one by a public vote tonight in Belfast.
However – and I know it’s not going to be popular – I disagree completely with Stephen and a lot of bike fans; I don’t think either of them should be on the shortlist.
I’m not taking anything away from Danny or Jonathan (or Tai Woffinden, Tim Reeves and Patrick Farrance, Jamie McCanney, or Emma Bristow – all British World Champions in 2015).
Danny was dominant in the early part of the Moto3 season, winning races with a gap that we’ve never seen before in that class, while Jonathan did what we always knew he was capable of doing on a fast bike – utterly dominate World Superbikes.
But look for a second on what they achieved from the point of view of a non-biking fan. Moto3 is a support class for MotoGP, much like GP2 is for Formula 1 (won in 2014, incidentally, by a Brit who wasn’t nominated for SPOTY), and World Superbikes is a second tier competition – World Endurance to Formula 1, to use the car model again (and also won by a Brit in 2015!).
Moreover, World Superbikes has become the forgotten cousin in recent years. Dwindling crowd attendance and poor TV figures, especially in the UK and despite British dominance of the series, it’s lost all of the lustre that made it the most important series in bike racing back in the nineties.
Meanwhile, we’re up against athletes from sports on the rise. Chris Froome and Lizzie Armistead are nominated, on the crest of a wave of popularity for cycling. Lucy bronze is nominated, after the England team exploded in popularity over the course of the Women’s’ World Cup, eventually pulling a huge 2.5 million people to watch their semi final performance.
Even rugby league, almost forgotten outside of the north of England, draws the sort of crowds every weekend of the season that the British MotoGP race would kill for.
My point is, that while we’re exceptionally lucky to be in a period of incredible British talent in motorcycling, we’re still a niche; and Moto3, World Superbikes, Speedway and Enduro are niches within that.
Trust me when I say that I’ll be the loudest cheering when a British rider finally wins a MotoGP title (it’s not too far away!) – and if they don’t get a SPOTY nomination, then I’ll lead the pitchforks myself. But until that day, we’re just going to have to accept our lot in life.