The UK Parliamentary Rugby League Group has given its backing to a fans’ boycott of the BBC’s annual Sports Personality of the Year award.
This follows the BBC’s omission of Sam Burgess from its shortlist of potential winners of the prestigious award.
The shortlist includes soccer star Gareth Bale, boxer Carl Froch, golfer Rory McIlory and some names from sports like dressage and the Winter Olympics.
Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland, Chairman of the UK Parliamentary Rugby League, has sent an email to his Parliamentary colleagues, explaining the rationale for the proposed boycott.
He has also called for rugby league fans to make their feelings known to the BBC.
“The UK produces outstanding athletes across a wide range of sports and I am sure it is a challenge to create a shortlist,” Mulholland wrote.
“But the sad thing is, it comes as no surprise that the BBC has failed to recognise one of the world’s best rugby league players in Sam Burgess.
“Sam is a genuine star and one of the greatest rugby league players to have ever played the ball.
“Quite rightly, he has accolades showered upon him in Australia and wherever rugby league receives fair media coverage.
“But in his home country, he is a relative unknown. He is no different to the shortlisted footballer Gareth Bale in that he plays his domestic sport in a country outside of the UK.
“On behalf of the Group, I have written to the BBC Director General and I call on all rugby league fans to do the same. I also encourage all to boycott the Sport Personality of the Year vote unless Sam is rightly included.”
The UK Parliamentary Rugby League Group has also tabled a motion in Parliament stating its case.
The Motion reads:
“That this House is dismayed by the exclusion of England rugby league player Sam Burgess from this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year; recognises the incredible 18 months Sam has had in international rugby league with England during the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and in the National Rugby League in Australia, culminating in his winning the man of the match Clive Churchill medal during the 2014 NRL Grand Final, the toughest rugby competition of either code and one of the most watched TV programmes on Australian television in 2014; further recognises that Sam is a genuine public personality appearing regularly in broadcast and print media, he was the first British player to be named Rugby League International Federation Player of the Year and has been placed on the six-man Golden Boot Shortlist for a second consecutive year; notes other footballers on the shortlist play their sport in competitions outside the UK; therefore fails to understand the rationale behind his exclusion; calls on rugby league fans to email BBC Sport to make their feelings known; and supports the campaign for rugby league fans to boycott the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and to refuse to vote unless he is included in the shortlist.”