Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards 2005

With modern technology such as the Web and mobile phone text messaging, public voting for awards has never been so easy. Nor so easily abused. In recent years an online poll to vote on a name for a footbridge to the new Wembley stadium in London saw huge numbers voting for Irishman 'Roy Keane', even though the competition was intended to honour English footballing greats. Similarly, a BBC poll for the best song of all time was won by a politically-charged song from the Irish republican group 'The Wolfe Tones'. So there is a danger for any media organisation or other awards producers, when organising such public votes, that vested interests and minority groups can abuse the system. This week saw the announcement of the Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year awards. Cleverly, the Sunday Times managed to involve a public submission process - a great method for raising awareness of the awards and creating a large stakeholder base - but reserved the actual judging to its own panel. Readers of the paper were invited to submit suggestions of people to be nominated, but the actual judging was then removed to the safety of a panel. It was the 18th year of the Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards, and the ceremony was held at a presentation dinner at Old Billingsgate Market in London. The highest award of Sportswoman of the Year went to Zara Phillips, gold medallist in the European Eventing Championships. Phillips, daughter of the Princess Royal, won ahead of yachswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur and runner Paula Radcliffe. Other award winners included the England women's cricket team for regaining the Ashes this summer, Caitlin McClatchey, the bronze medallist at the World Swimming Championships and Hilary Lister, who became the first quadriplegic to sail across the channel.