The BBC’s director-general Tony Hall has spoken out in defence of Tyson Fury’s inclusion on the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist after more than 130,000 people signed a petition calling for the boxer’s removal.
Speaking at the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Lord Hall said, “He’s been put on that list because of his sporting prowess. It’s now up to the people to judge whether he should become Sports Personality of the Year.”
Fury and Andy Murray were late additions to the shortlist after their respective efforts to reclaim the boxing world title and Davis Cup, bringing the number of contenders to 12.
Hall insisted that the nominees had been decided by an independent panel and that any claims that the boxer’s name had been “imposed by the BBC” were “wrong”. He denied that Fury’s inclusion on the shortlist gave him power over the Corporation:
“He has no power over us whatsoever – we are independent.
“I believe in the process of Sports Personality of the Year. The panel have made their judgement, it is now up for the people to judge and vote as to whether he should be Sports Personality of the Year.”
Fury – who beat Vladimir Klitschko last month to become the new world champion – has courted controversy with his homophobic views and comments about women and abortion.
A petition calling for his removal from the SPOTY shortlist has raised over 138,000 signatures. Set up by Scott Cuthbertson, it states, “The BBC clearly do not understand that by nominating Fury, who has on a number of occasions expressed homophobic views and compared homosexuality to paedophilia, they are putting him up as a role model to young people all over the UK and the world.”
The BBC have since put out a statement in response to the petition: “The nominees for BBC Sports Personality of the Year are decided on their sporting achievements. As Fury became heavyweight champion of the world over the weekend, the panel feel that he should be a contender for this year’s award.”
This year’s Sports Personality of the Year will be revealed on Sunday 20th December with coverage of the ceremony beginning at 6:50pm.