Celebrating Women in Sport Ahead of the Sports Personality of the Year Awards

Rich Brown
Rich Brown

It’s been over 5,470 days, 180 months or 15 years since a British woman last won the annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year award which celebrates incredible British people’s sporting achievements. 

In those 15 years British women have won numerous gold medals, clocked up world records and made sporting history, but the last time a woman won the BBC’s SPOTY award was in 2006 when Zara Tindall MBE received the award for winning gold at the World Equestrian Games.

While the Sports Personality of the Year Award has been around for 67 years, only 13 women have ever won the award, two of which have been members of the Royal Family. 

If 2021 SPOTY nominees Emma Raducanu or Dame Sarah Storey don’t win this year’s title it will be the longest period of time since the awards began in 1954, that a female has not won. With only two women out of the six nominees, it’s clear there is still a long way to go when recognising women’s contributions to British sport.

As for runner-ups, there hasn’t been a woman in the top two since 2012 when Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill came second, but five men have won the award multiple times, including Sir Andy Murray who has won a staggering three times, as well as winning the Young Sports Personality and Team awards. 

Recent survey data from YouGov shows that 55% of Brits think sportsperson awards should be gender-segregated, with men and women in agreement, and only 3 in 10 people think sporting prizes should have combined awards. 

It seems that women don’t get enough credit in the most high profile sports awards which may explain why so few Brits think men and women should be celebrated together. In 1988 The Sunday Times created the Sportswoman of the Year Awards which celebrates women’s sport however this doesn’t receive the same level of recognition  as the BBC’s annual awards.

Here at fourfive we believe that more women should be recognised through SPOTY as there have been countless incredible sporting achievements over the past 15 years.

In celebration of women’s sporting history, we’ve put together 15 momentous sporting achievements over the last 15 years, find out what they are and the sportswomen involved.

15 Years of Women’s Sporting Achievements

In the 15 years, four summer Olympic Games saw Rebecca Adlington OBE win two gold medals in 2008, Nicola Adams OBE became the first British woman to win boxing gold in 2012 and Britain’s hockey team won gold at Rio 2016, to mention a few. 

In this 15 year period there has also been a standout achievement that a British women’s team achieved before their male counterparts. In 2017 the England Women’s Cricket Team won the ICC World Cup for the first time, it wasn’t until two years later in 2019 that the England Men’s Cricket Team won the Cricket World Cup for the first time. 

There have been many firsts by sports women over the last 15 years worthy of the SPOTY title including Amy Williams MBE and Jenny Jones winning medals in the Winter Olympics and Catriona Matthew OBE becoming the first Scot to win a women’s major golf tournament.

Our 2021 Sports Personality of the Year Woman Nominees

In celebration of this year’s sporting successes, we’ve pulled together six inspirational sports women who would make great Sport Personality of the Year nominees in 2021. 

  • Jordanne Whiley MBE – Became the first British woman to win a singles tennis medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
  • Emma Raducanu – Won the US Open at 18 years old and reached the 4th round at Wimbledon. Britain’s first female Grand Slam champion in 44 years.
  • Laura Kenny CBE – Became the first British woman to win gold at three Olympics and the most successful female cyclist in Olympic history.
  • Bethany Shriever – Became the first and only Brit to win Olympic gold in BMX racing in July at Tokyo 2020. 
  • Dame Sarah Storey- Her 17 gold medals triumph made her the most decorated Paralympianin in British history.
  • Hannah Cockroft MBE- The 29-year-old is the fastest of all time at every T34 event from 100m to 1,500m and this year won her sixth and seventh Paralympic golds in Tokyo.

Women have only been shortlisted SPOTY a handful of times, either losing out to others, or being awarded second place. Here, we celebrate those who missed out but achieved massively in their sporting career. 

fourfive Ambassador Rachael Burford’s Contribution to Women in Sport

Rachael Burford is an English rugby union player and has represented England at the 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cups. She is an advocate for girls in sport and founded the Girls Rugby Club in Nottingham that offers a scholarship to make rugby accessible for all women and girls, regardless of their financial situation. 

Speaking of women in sport and the upcoming Sports Personality of the Year, Rachael said, “I think we’re so advanced now in recognising what’s going on but we just need to keep shouting about all the great work that is being done in women’s sport.

“Let’s celebrate and shout about the global growth, the eyeballs on TV, the sponsorships and  money that’s coming into women’s sport, because that naturally brings in more investment which leads to more achievements by teams and players because they’ve got greater opportunities and greater resources.

“As for the Sports Personality of the Year Award, maybe there’s a conversation to be had to make sure there isn’t a 15 year gap where females aren’t being recognised because it’s such a prestigious award. The shortlists are very narrow and you think how many people really do miss out? Should they potentially be thinking about making it into a standalone award for men and women?”

Rachael thinks there should be separate Sports Personality of the Year Awards for men and women, adding “I think we’re not at a time where we’re on an equal footing so until there’s equal visibility across sports, we’re not in a place for them to be joint.”