This year’s Sports Personality of the Year show will trial a new banter testing system, the BBC announced today. The news comes amidst growing fears that athletes from popular, clubby sports have been able to unfairly game the system for many years by using in-jokes and slight innuendo with the presenters, thought to be worth at least 50,000 extra votes on the night over athletes from more marginal sports.
‘We want to level the playing field’, said a BBC spokesperson today. ‘We know that it’s always funny seeing Lennox Lewis goof around with Andy Murray, and who couldn’t raise a smile as Claire Balding makes a quip with Lewis Hamilton about his tax arrangements. But it’s got out of hand. The women’s cricket team have won just about everything over recent years and all they usually get is just 30 seconds with Sue Barker and one of those slo-mo montages with the Welsh guy reciting an old poem over it’.
Jokey exchanges on the show remain at an all time high, with presenters and sports personalities seemingly always at least two anecdotes ahead of the testers. In one forced exchange between Gary Lineker and the England rugby team last year, banter levels were found to be 10 times the recommended broadcast maximum. Samples of every interview done by John Inverdale are also currently being retrospectively tested, after high levels of a hard-to-spot reference to a public school tradition were found in one of his set piece comedy interludes with the England men’s cricket team during rehearsals of the show.
With Murray serving a one year ban for dangerous levels of gags about his wife and mother in last year’s show, testers are thought to be focusing in on Chris Froome, who, to date, has registered a zero reading on every banter test he has ever taken. ‘The suspicion is that he’s using high levels of natural ability and a somewhat deadpan delivery as a masking agent for heavily scripted punchlines.’, said one tester today. ‘But we feel it’s just a matter of time before he lets his guard down and gives a well timed riposte to one of Gabby Logan’s questions about chafing after 3 weeks in the saddle’.