Jonathan Rea on SPOTY snub: “Motorcycle racing hasn’t been embraced”

Jonathan Rea makes his first comments on BBC's failure to consider him for the 2019 SPOTY award despite his ongoing WorldSBK success

Jonathan Rea - Kawasaki Racing Team

Five-time WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea has spoken for the first time about his omission from the annual BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year award nominations despite continuing a record-breaking run of success since finishing second in the ceremony two years ago.

The Kawasaki rider famously finished a close runner-up to winner Mo Farah in the 2017 BBC SPOTY edition of the awards on the back of his third WorldSBK title success.

Though cynical onlookers put the result down to the ‘block voting’ of his Northern Irish heritage, it was nonetheless a rare opportunity for motorcycle racing – and in particular WorldSBK - to share some high-profile spotlight alongside more primetime televised sports.

Unfortunately for Rea, a decision to change the format of the show to just six jury selected nominees – reportedly an indirect response to preventing a relative unknown from being in with a chance – meant he wasn’t considered for the 2019 title.

This is despite his 2017 result and the fact he has since gone on to win two further titles and cement his status as history’s most successful Superbike rider.

While others in the industry have directed their ire at the BBC for ignoring Rea’s success – including Jeremy McWilliams branding it a ‘bloody disgrace’ - the man himself has remained relatively quiet on the matter, making his first comments at a Sports Inspires Lunch, a charity event hosted by athletics legend Lady Mary Peters.

Reflecting on the sheer shock of his performance in 2017, Rea was philosophical about not being considered for a second year in a row.

"I didn't expect anything then, either,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “When I heard I had been nominated, I thought it would be nice to go along and have a nice meal and night on the BBC.

"I was dumbfounded to be declared runner-up to Mo Farah. The thought of all those people phoning in to vote for me was just incredible. But I think the selection procedure has been changed since then... motorcycle racing hasn't been embraced."

Lady Mary Peters jumps to Jonathan Rea’s defence!

Amusingly, Rea found an ally in Northern Ireland’s Lady Peters, gold medal winner in Pentathlon at the 1972 Olympics and winner of SPOTY that same year.

Saying Rea’s omission makes her ‘cross’, she also touches on the seemingly counter-productive move to limit the nominees to just six athletes at a time of great success in British sport.

“We are all really cross here that Jonathan has not been included in the BBC Sports Personality nominations,” she told the assembled party

"When I won it in 1972, after my gold medal win, people had to write in to the Radio Times to cast their vote. Now it is all instant and phone vote and internet-based. The rules and the criteria seem to have changed but Jonathan is still a star to us.”

Cricketer Ben Stokes was crowned the 2019 BBC SPOTY winner, triumphing over six-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and Athletics World Championship gold medal winner Dina Asher-Smith