Marcus Rashford would be a ‘very worthy winner’ of Sports Personality of the Year, insists Gary Lineker amid Manchester United star’s battle against child food poverty as BBC face calls to include him on their shortlist
The BBC’s Gary Lineker has told Sportsmail that he believes Marcus Rashford would be ‘a very worthy winner’ of Sports Personality of the Year, as debate continues to rage over whether the 22-year-old should be included on the shortlist.
Despite a crusading campaign and a petition urging help for Britain’s most impoverished children which topped one million on Wednesday night, Sportsmail revealed Rashford is set to miss out on the shortlist for the main BBC award because criteria state it must reflect ‘sporting achievements’.
Lineker, who will co-present the awards show in Salford before Christmas, said he thought the Manchester United player should meet the criteria. But he insisted that as a presenter, he had no say in the matter.
Marcus Rashford would be a worthy winner of the SPOTY award, says host Gary Lineker
The Man United star was odds-on favourite due to his campaigning for free school meals
The Match of the Day host stressed, however, that he has no say over the forward’s inclusion
‘I think he would be a very worthy winner,’ Lineker told Sportsmail. ‘It just depends on whether the panel feels he meets the sporting criteria to be a contender. For me he does but I have no say as I’m a presenter on the show.’
Leading politicians including Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, have already urged the BBC to break with protocol to ensure Rashford is nominated for the award.
Lineker has been an ardent admirer of Rashford’s campaigning work. ‘I’m really proud of some of our young footballers for the way they’ve spoken out about certain causes,’ he told a recent ‘Between the Lines‘ podcast. ‘What Marcus Rashford has done, in terms of feeding our poorest children… is a wonderful example.’
Rashford has earned a legion of fans for his work battling against child poverty in schools
Public support for the England international had seen him become a popular selection
But opinion is divided on the Sports Personality of the Year issue.
Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan tweeted this week: ‘I bow to nobody in my admiration of Marcus Rashford but his stunning success in 2020 has been humanitarian not sporting.
‘The BBC Sports Personality of the Year award should go to Lewis Hamilton. It’s not even close given what he’s achieved in F1.’
Though the judging criteria for 2020 has not yet been confirmed and the panel have the right to make alterations, a change to the usual parameters is not expected unless there is immense public pressure.
BBC bosses, who know Rashford’s omission from the main award shortlist would be controversial, are looking at alternative ways they could honour the player during the event on December 20.
The BBC are looking at other ways they could acknowledge Rashford’s achievements
The shortlist used to be drawn up by a panel of sports editors from newspapers and magazines but that process was changed after they selected an all-male line-up in 2011.
Since then, BBC Sport director Barbara Slater has chaired a 12-person judging panel, which includes fellow BBC bosses Philip Bernie, the head of TV sport, and Carl Doran, the executive editor.
The rest of the panel is rotated each year and contains a mixture of former sportspeople, representatives from the sports media and sports governing bodies. They will meet in the middle of next month to choose the shortlist.
Rashford heard on Wednesday that he is to be given the City of Manchester Award to thank him for his campaign to get free meals for children during the school holidays. The award recognises ‘outstanding and exceptional contribution to the city.’