The BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year shows that we still rate British performances over Welsh ones

Jonathan Davies. Picture by the National Assembly (CC BY 2.0)

Adam Pearce

It’s something of an accident of history that Wales, a stateless nation, has its own national sports teams.

We’re rightly proud of these teams and, for better or worse, they have provided a unifying Welsh identity for many.

This only makes the awarding of BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year for 2017 to the rugby player Jonathan Davies all the more unfortunate.

This is in no way intended to be a personal criticism of Jonathan Davies – he has been a sterling servant for the Wales rugby team for many years.

Even if he were to retire from the sport today, at the age of 29, he would probably have earned himself a lifetime achievement award.

Davies can hardly be blamed for being nominated nor for accepting the award that he has been offered – I would have done exactly the same if I were in his situation.

My issue is what his winning the award represents for the relative prestige of representing Wales, compared to representing Britain.

Contribution

It’s worth pointing out that the award is not given for a whole career but is rather for achievement in the calendar year.

With that in mind, let’s look back at Davies’ sporting achievements in 2017.

Davies was part of the Scarlets team that won the Guinness Pro12 in the 2016-17 season, and also the Welsh rugby team.

But it’s unlikely that the award was for his work with these teams. He missed much of the Scarlets’ season due to injury and international call-ups.

The player that the Scarlets chose to honour as their official player of the year was, in fact, Steff Evans.

And I don’t think it’s unfair to say that there are several other Welsh players whose performances also contributed more to the Scarlets’ success that year.

These include Davies’ own brother James, and his positional rival Hadleigh Parkes, as well as Liam Williams and Aaron Shingler.

Davies’ also had an indifferent Six Nations, only winning two of the games he was involved in.

He was not one of the two Welsh players nominated for player of the tournament (Ken Owens and Rhys Webb).

And if you look at the many player ratings doled out by the press at the time, it’s clear that Davies wasn’t considered one of Wales’ better performers.

He missed the summer tour to the Pacific Islands and played in only a single game in the autumn, a defeat to Australia, missing the rest of the year due to an injury.

Contributionism

There’s no doubt that Jonathan Davies’ best rugby in 2017 was played for the British and Irish Lions during their New Zealand tour.

He played every minute of the three test matches and was unexpectedly named the Lions’ Player of the Tour.

It’s evident therefore that Jonathan Davies was named BBC Wales Sports Personality of the year purely on the back of his performances for a British sports team.

If we had to pick an outstanding Welsh rugby player for 2017, giving equal weight to club, international and Lions performances, it would certainly not have been Jonathan Davies.

I suspect I am not the only Welsh person who feels rather ambivalent about the British and Irish Lions, as well as other contexts where athletes compete as British as opposed to Welsh.

But regardless of how you feel, the official criteria for the Sports Personality award note that the winner must “reflect Wales’s sporting achievements on the national and/or international stage”.

I’ve no issue with a performance for British teams being taken into account for this; indeed it is all but essential to fairly evaluate achievement in many sports. The opportunity to actually de jure represent Wales is not always possible.

Surely, however, in a sport like Rugby where players can and do represent Wales itself, it is nothing short of servile contributionism to entirely disregard an athlete’s performance in a Welsh shirt when evaluating them for their contribution to Welsh sport.

Doing so effectively sends the message that the Wales shirt is irrelevant: real achievement is always going to be measured in what you do in the name of Britain.


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Gareth
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Gareth

Oh this is a pathetic article.

Can’t we be proud that numerous Weslmen have been chosen for the Lions over the years. We’ve rearly had ‘the token Weldhman.’ Historically The Lions have always been good at including all four rugby unions.

I bet if a Welsh golfer led Europe to victory in the Ryder Cup and then won this award an article wouldn’t be written. The author is just looking for an excuse to knock the UK.

Edeyrn
Guest

Maybe you make a valid point…….. but

“. The author is just looking for an excuse to knock the UK.”
Oh matey there are many fabulous criticisms of UK rule and forcing dependency we could all go into without touching sport once…starting with the chronic lack of investment over a vast period of time

David
Guest
David

one of of candidadates has been crocked most of the year so people did not have much choice

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

In the grand scheme of things this kind of award is pretty low priority. There are so many more big irritations to go after. However if we wish to have a go at the BBC or media in general I think there is some work to be done. Bring regulation of all media under the control of Y Senedd. That way we might be able to reduce the London-centred tripe churned out by the Beeb ( and the other channels/ providers). Instead of putting out shows like Sport Personality they could use the funds to show some real sport, like… Read more »

Kieran Thomas
Guest
Kieran Thomas

Not often I disagree with an article on NC, but I do with this one (although I’m not criticising the article, and it is an interesting opinion). However, as the award is for 2017 I feel Foxy merits it because: his form towards the end of the PRO12 season (ie from March 2017 onwards) was immense and massively contributed to Scarlets ever-improving performances; whislt I don’t care about the Lions anywhere near as much as I do Wales, as a rugby fan I appreciate what an achievement it is just to be picked. Couple that with the awesome achievement of… Read more »

Benjiman L. Angwin
Guest
Benjiman L. Angwin

Erthygl dda.

Mae’n dod â Hakeem ‘the Dream’ Olajuwon, chwaraewr NBA dawnus yn Nhrehuws, Techas (Houston, Texas) i’m meddwl. Roedd rhaid iddo roi’r gorau i fod yn Nigeriwr o Lagos i bob pwrpas a bod yn Americanwr er mwyn cael llwyddiant a chydnabyddiaeth am ei ddawn. Llwyddodd i gadw ei hunanieth mewn ffordd, ond collodd rywbeth dyfnach hefyd. Roedd o wastad yn dweud, hoffai gael mwy o gydnabyddiaeth fel Nigeriwr.

G Davies
Guest
G Davies

Seldom have unread such a bitter and twisted interpretation.

daffy2012
Guest

Did someone mention ‘servility’?

Anyway, good article.

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

Different opinions make the world go round. Sad this was a story someone felt so passionate they needed to write about it. Great player. Has been for years. Well deserved.

Twm Owen
Guest

The British and Irish Lions doesn’t really excite me but I think the author has allowed his politicial opinions to outweigh the sporting arguments here, and I find it hard to disagree with Gareth’s point about a Welsh Ryder Cup golf champion.

Adam Pearce
Guest
Adam Pearce

Many commenters have taken my article as a massive criticism of the Lions and of Davies, when it certainly wasn’t intended to be – the only direct criticism I made of the Lions was saying that I am personally ambivalent about them. I don’t have any political issue with Welsh sports people representing Britain in sports where it’s not possible to represent Wales; I have no problem whatsoever with Jade Jones or a hypothetical Welsh golfer winning the award. They can’t represent Wales in their sports so it’s perfectly reasonable to disregard “Welsh” performances, because such performances don’t exist (outside… Read more »

Adam Pearce
Guest
Adam Pearce
Kriss
Guest
Kriss

Bollocks – looking for a reason to winge

Rob Evans
Guest
Rob Evans

It seems odd to think of playing for the British and Irish Lions as “representing Britain”.

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

the lions to me is more like an elite club side. It’s not Team GB – try telling the Irish lot that they are representing Team GB and imagine the response. I do have one reservation though in that it’s a little disappointing to hear players, who are being honest about it, stating that it is the pinnacle of their careers and I wish that the pinnacle would be wearing the red shirt of Wales. I can understand why players think that, because its much harder to get selected when your competing for places with the best of the other… Read more »

TimmyC
Guest
TimmyC

Of course its the pinnacle. Unless you are the traditional wildcard, you have to play for a home nation to be in contention for a lions squad call up let alone a test spot.

Edeyrn
Guest

The “Lions” were a symbol of English colonialism used to invade many areas of the world

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

I think it’s possible to take things a bit far. I don’t see the Lions in that light at all, although I did object to how Clive Woodward tried to hijack the idea and rebrand and market it. The English media also tends to play up the British element to another level and I do find that a bit too much at times.

CapM
Guest
CapM

It should be – BBC Wales Sports Person of the Year.
A lot of the winners may stand out for their sporting achievements but they’re pretty boring.
If it were going to be rugby player this year I think Scott Lion tamer Baldwin would have had a greater claim to be called a “Sports Personality”.

DAIBOY
Guest
DAIBOY

Pathetic article!!!!!

TimmyC
Guest
TimmyC

Missed the summer tour? He didn’t miss the summer tour, he was with the Lions! Talk about twisting the facts to fit your jingoist agenda.

Playing for the Lions is the highest accolade for any rugby player and to be named player of the series (which wasn’t a surprise to me at all, nor to any other rugby fan) means that he was one of the best rugby players on the planet this summer. It’s telling that he was one of only two players (the other being Liam Williams) who the Kiwi’s said they would gladly adopt if they could.

Adam Pearce
Guest
Adam Pearce

He didn’t play for Wales on their summer tour. That’s not twisting a fact, that’s stating a fact.

And I’m not saying that he should have done, nor that he should have turned down the Lions. I’m just pointing out that he didn’t achieve much in a Welsh shirt.

Edeyrn
Guest

The original Welsh rugby sport was Cnapan…..sadly surpressed by the church in Wales.

Rugby itself, is from the public schools of England (Rugby town public school origin in East midlands)

………..why not write an article on that? Or the poncy three feathers of Bohemia, being used wrongly by the Welsh.- this is being too pedantic

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

and if you want to attack Welsh rugby then that is just the same as the mindset that onbjected to cnapan. It was Welsh non-conformists that attacked and ruined some of our best traditions, not the Chirch of England. The Celts were notorious for their love of fun and the odd drink, but somehow we fell in love with a movement that ran counter to that. The temparists were a reaction to criticism that we were all drunkards and uncivilised. why do we always strive to prove ourselves to be perfect, when we’re not and most of us have no… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest

“representing Britain.”

No one can represent an island … the UK is the operating state ….. barely any journalists understand this! … Britain is not a state

Barry Ayland
Guest
Barry Ayland

A valid view on the situation. We have this split personality in Wales. Are we a country or just a western bit of England, and if the latter, isn’t London our capital and Britain our country?

Rob
Guest
Rob

I always thought it was shameful when the 2015 award went to Dan Biggar & not to Gareth Bale. I have nothing against Dan & was just as ecstatic as everyone else was when we beat England in the world cup, but how often does our football team achieve qualification for a major tournament? We have beaten England regularly over the years in rugby, whereas in football getting to Euro 2016 was the first time we qualified for a major tournament since 1958. Its just rather unfortunate that for some of us, rugby is the ‘be all & end all’… Read more »

Josh
Guest
Josh

Really? What about the context? The other players you mention performed well in club games or averagely well in international games. JD won it because he excelled at Lions level, one step up from international, against New Zealand away from home. So you are correct that more emphasis, in this case, was given the British team performance over the Wales team performance because of the context.