BBC ordered Tyson Fury's name added to Sports Personality of the Year shortlist
The controversy over the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) poll deepened last night as it emerged the judges who selected the finalists were told by email that Tyson Fury had been added to the shortlist.
The Belfast Telegraph revealed that the judging panel did not meet to discuss adding the controversial boxer to the line-up for the glittering ceremony in Belfast's SSE Arena.
The corporation has faced a barrage of criticism for failing to remove Fury from the list for the star-studded Belfast event after his controversial comments about homosexuality and paedophilia. The boxer also blasted abortion and made lewd comments about Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill.
The Sports Personality shortlist is agreed upon by sporting industry experts, media representatives and former nominees. The panel includes local Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters and paralympic champion Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson.
A source close to the process has told the Belfast Telegraph that the judging panel met in November to agree a shortlist of 10. At the end of the meeting they were informed that if Great Britain were to win the Davis Cup and Tyson Fury the World heavyweight title, Andy Murray and Fury would likely be added to the 10.
Following those wins, emails were sent to the judges informing them that Andy Murray and Tyson Fury had been added to the list and stating that if the judges had any comments, to respond with them.
No second meeting of the full judging panel took place.
Since his surprise title win against Wladimir Klitschko last week, a public petition with more than 70,000 signatures has been launched to remove Fury from the list of nominees.
And Alice Arnold, wife of Sports Personality of the Year presenter Clare Balding and former BBC newsreader, has slammed Fury as a "homophobic idiot".
She wrote in the Guardian: "If you don't like gay people and think we are the devil incarnate, then keep it to yourself unless you want blood on your hands - and not on your boxing gloves. It will be up to us to cast our votes … perhaps this year 'personality' really IS important."
But the BBC defended Fury's inclusion.
A spokeswoman said: "Tyson Fury's victory and subsequent crowning as world heavyweight champion was widely covered by media outlets and his inclusion on the shortlist is similarly recognition of his sporting achievement.
"It is not about endorsing his personal views. It will be for the public to decide who will crowned Sports Personality of the Year 2015."
Yesterday Fury stuck by his comments, calling into the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2 that was discussing his nomination.
He said: "I believe I should be winning Sports Personality of the Year because if it's about sporting achievement and it's about personality then I'm a winner hands down."
"But if we're going to go on people's opinions and views, then I have split opinions and views. If that's going to hamper my performance on winning or losing then it's clearly not a fair contest."
Referring to fellow nominee Ennis he said: "When I said Jessica Ennis slaps up good it means she looks good when she has make-up on. I think she looks good in a dress. I think all women look good in dresses. Is that a crime if I think a woman looks good in a dress?"
He also said: "Homosexuality, abortion and paedophelia, them three things need to be accomplished before the world finishes, that's what the bible says. Them three things must be accomplished before the world finishes.
"I didn't say that, that's what the bible tells me. I didn't say I had a problem with homosexuals, abortionists or paedophiles. I didn't state if I am with it or against it, I just stated what I am taught.
"I didn't say I hate homosexuals or lesbians or gay people or whoever. I didn't say that but I just said those three things need to be accomplished before the world's end."
With Fury expected to attend the awards in Belfast on December 20 at the SSE Arena, Terry McCorran, head coach at the City of Belfast Boxing Academy, said there was little support for the new heavyweight world champion in his club.
"Personally I don't think he should have been on the list," he said. "I don't rate him as a boxer and heavyweight boxing is dead as far as I'm concerned. Nothing he's done in or outside the ring makes him deserve to be on that list. He was the best of the worst two people in the ring."
He added: "His attitude towards women is awful, he's doing nothing positive for the sport. This is at a time when we're trying to encourage more girls to get involved in boxing.
"His comments about Jessica Ennis were disgraceful, she's the type of person we would actually want our young boxers to look up to."
He said that the aspiring young boxers in the academy "just think he's a funny character and quite stupid".