Frampton was deserving of shortlist place for BBC award

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It would be easy to jump to conclusions that BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) is biased against Northern Ireland.

In fact three past winners have been from Northern Ireland (Mary Peters, Barry McGuigan and Tony McCoy) and many more have been shortlisted.

Michael O’Neill last year won coach of the year.

There have been surprising NI failures (Rory McIlroy in 2014) but overall it is an impressive tally for a region that makes up only 3% of the population (less than a thirtieth) of the UK.

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We cannot expect to have someone in the shortlist every year, even if it has been increased from 12 to 16 contestants.

This year, however, there is upset at the omission of the world champion boxer Carl Frampton from Belfast, the two-time world Superbike champion Jonathan Rea and Team GB’s most decorated paralympian at Rio, Bethany Firth.

Carl Frampton has gently complained about his absence, saying: “... I think maybe what it looks to me is maybe anti-boxing, maybe anti-Northern Ireland, who knows? But listen, I am not going to cry about it and I’ll get on with my career.”

But while it is important to be wary about over-stating the scale of any discrimination against the Province in an award to find the best in a nation of 64 million people, some of this year’s NI-linked absences are noteworthy.

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Firth won more medals in Brazil than Paralympians who have made the SPOTY short list.

The exclusion of Frampton, who beat the previously undefeated Mexican Leo Santa Cruz in New York in the summer, is most notable of all. His achievements have been huge by any measure, winning world titles at two different weights.

It is hard to see how his successes are less than those of the footballer Jamie Vardy, although the latter gives SPOTY a chance to nod towards Leicester City’s stunning team victory.

So while it is wrong to search too hard for general anti-NI discrimination that might not be there, some of the absences this year are disappointing, and deserving of publicity.