Mary Earps, the England goalkeeper, has been named the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year for 2023 after 12 months of success both on and off the field.
The World Cup star described her prize as the “ultimate all-round sporting accolade” as she accepted the trophy in front of an audience of sporting stars in Salford’s Media City.
Earps is the third woman in three years to win the prize, the first time there has been such a sequence in the long-running competition since the 1960s. The cricketer Stuart Broad finished as runner-up, with the heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson third.
“I am going to try this Christmas to get some time to reflect and think about it all,” Earps said. “It has been an incredible couple of years and I just feel really, really grateful to have been given an opportunity to fulfil my wildest dreams. It is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I cannot believe I am standing up here – and I had a long walk in this dress and these heels. It’s a bit ridiculous.”
Earps, 30, was dropped from the Lionesses in 2019 and thought about international retirement. She said the experience had helped her to develop as a person. “I think what I’ve learned over the last couple of years is you’ve got to show a lot of resilience in life, a lot of character,” she said.
“It’s never easy. We all go through hard times. And in whatever walk of life we’re in, I think football is a vehicle, and we can all change the world in some small way. So that’s kind of what I’m trying to do.”
Earps was the breakout star of a Lionesses side which battled their way to the World Cup final last summer. The winner of the tournament’s golden glove award, included among her highlights were heroics against Australia during the frantic second half of the semi-final and a penalty save against Spain in the final, diving low to her left and holding on to Jenni Hermoso’s shot.
Her response to that save took Earps to an audience that reached beyond sports fans, however. An explosion of satisfaction was accompanied by a stream of expletives. But while the images drew some tut-tutting, for others her exclamation captured the passion of sporting endeavour as well as any moment this year. Earps went on to further cement her connection with the British public by pursuing Nike over its decision not to put a replica of her goalkeeping kit on sale for fans. Eventually Nike reversed its decision and two editions of the shirt have since sold out.
Broad came second in the public vote – which is conducted live during the TV broadcast – after he retired from cricket in the most sensational way possible, with a pair of wickets to win the final Test of an Ashes series. He finished his international career with 604 Test wickets for England. Johnson-Thompson, meanwhile, won gold at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest this summer, two years after being forced to abandon the Tokyo Olympics with injury.
Confronting adversity was one of the consistent themes of this year’s Spoty. This was the 70th edition of the BBC’s annual gala, with the world of sport – and broadcasting – having changed in no small way since Christopher Chataway beat Roger Bannister to the title in the year the latter broke the four-minute mile (with Chataway his pace maker). The BBC drafted in David Beckham to lead the anniversary tributes and remind viewers of its importance to the honoured athletes, while Paula Radcliffe recalled her triumph in 2002, driven by fans who had to fill in and cut out a coupon in the Radio Times to vote.
Elsewhere in the awards there was another treble for the Manchester City men’s team. After sweeping all before them in the club game, with the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League titles, City were named team of the year at these awards, while the star striker Erling Haaland and the auteur manager Pep Guardiola were named World Star and Coach of the Year respectively. “Kyle Walker told me the award was very prestigious so thank you,” Guardiola said on a video link from Saudi Arabia where City are taking part at the Club World Cup.
The Young Sports Personality of the Year award was given to Mia Brookes, 16, after she became the youngest snowboarding world champion in the history of the sport. Along the way Brookes, from Cheshire, became the first woman to complete a 1440 degree rotation jump, became the first Briton to win a title in the slopestyle discipline and secured the Big Air title at the Snowboard World Cup. A clearly delighted Brookes told the audience that being at the ceremony was one of her “biggest dreams” and that her focus is now on Winter Olympic gold in Milan in 2026.
Fatima Whitbread won the Helen Rollason award, recalling her friendship with the much-loved broadcaster as she spoke in support of children in the care sector.
The lifetime achievement award was given to Sir Kenny Dalglish who said he would “treasure this award dearly”, while the unsung hero was Desmond Smith, chair of the Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club, founded in 1986 as a response to the racism experienced by black Britons in other local clubs.
Olivia Martin is a dedicated sports journalist based in the UK. With a passion for various athletic disciplines, she covers everything from major league championships to local sports events, delivering up-to-the-minute updates and in-depth analysis.