World boxing champion Carl Frampton has backtracked over comments he made branding the BBC Sports Personality of the year as “anti-Northern Ireland”.
The north Belfast man was omitted from this year’s shortlist despite continuing his remarkable unbeaten professional record with a stunning victory over Leo Santa Cruz in New York in the summer, which saw him become the first Northern Ireland boxer to win world belts at two different weights.
On Tuesday, he told The Nolan Show the decision to leave him off the list was anti-Northern Ireland and anti-boxing.
The 29-year-old’s absence caused a storm among sports fans in Northern Ireland and the issue was even raised at Westminster, with DUP MP Nigel Dodds calling for a debate on the openness and transparency of the BBC.
But in his Sunday Life column, Frampton retracted his earlier comments, stating: “I did initially say that the BBC’s decision was anti-Northern Ireland, but I want to take that back.
“On reflection, I would say that it was more of a case of anti-Northern Ireland this year in the sense that because we had the show last year in the Odyssey and had AP McCoy and Michael O’Neill winning awards, they just seemed to feel, well that was enough for a while.
“Of course, I was surprised not to be on the list, but I really feel sorry for Johnny Rea, a double world champion, and the one that I really don’t understand is Bethany Firth.
“There are Paralympians on the list and yet the one who won the most medals for Team GB & NI isn’t.
“I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, but I do think the process of selection needs to be more transparent, otherwise it gives the impression of just being a box-ticking exercise.”