A Muz-Win Situation
An extended list of 16 contenders for this year’s Sports Personality Of The Year was revealed on Monday. The biggest surprise was the omission of 2016 Tour De France winner Chris Froome.
Six women making the list and 3 Paralympians shortlisted was less of a surprise and what we have come to expect from the politically correct BBC.
Despite Andy Murray regaining the Wimbledon title and going on to defend Olympic men’s singles gold in Rio, there was still some doubt over his prospects of retaining his SPOTY title heading into the autumn.
But his amazing end of season run, which saw him win a first ATP World Tour Finals title at the O2 – televised live on the BBC – and become world number one, has cemented his position as a red-hot 1-6 favourite to become the first ever person to win the SPOTY title in back to back years, and also the first to win it three times.
Murray is reported not to be attending the event at Birmingham’s Genting Arena on December 18 as he will be in Miami at his pre-season training camp. This was also the case when Murray won in 2013 and should not damage his chance, with a powerful Scottish vote guaranteed.
The main threat to Murray this year appeared out of nowhere back on September 19 when a video appeared online of triathlon gold medalist Alistair Brownlee helping his brother, Jonny, over the finish line in the Triathlon World Series in Cozumel, Mexico, and the clip rapidly went viral:
It resonated powerfully with the public as an act of sportsmanship, brotherly love, and transcended sport becoming a human interest story. It remains difficult to gauge quite how big Brownlee’s vote might be on the night.
He defended his triathlon gold in Rio but his SPOTY prospects hinge much more on how much focus the BBC give this sporting moment on the night. But the thoroughly likeable and down-to-earth Brownlee, who heralds from Dewsbury in Yorkshire, is already assured strong regional support and looks the only possible danger to Murray.
The headline Rio gold medalists on the list including Laura Trott (now Kenny), husband Jason, Mo Farah, Max Whitlock, Adam Peaty and Nick Skelton are all going to harness votes but look likely to divide the ‘most deserving Olympian’ vote.
Laura Kenny became the golden girl of British track cycling in the Rio Velodrome but the fear is, the splintering Olympic vote will not do her any favours. We may well get an assortment of social media campaigns such as #TrottyforSPOTY in the lead up to December 18 though that one has already tailed off somewhat after she married Jason Kenny in September and is now Laura Kenny.
Bale’s heroics for Wales at Euro 2016, and Wales’s surprising progress through the tournament, reaching the semi-finals, was one of the stories of the sporting summer
Despite defending double Olympic gold in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres, including getting up to win after being tripped over during the 10,000 metre final, Farah has struggled to gain voting traction in past SPOTYs and this looks likely to be the case again.
The equine lobby has been seen to be quite powerful in the past – as Zara Phillips win in 2006 and AP McCoy’s in 2010 are testament to – but it looks hard for Skelton’s feel-good gold medal in Rio to make enough of an impact.
A much stronger vote potentially lies with the two footballers on the shortlist – Gareth Bale and Jamie Vardy. Outside of Bale’s nomination in 2014, the BBC has ducked shortlisting footballers since Ryan Giggs win in 2009.
The reason for this is, football is the UK’s most populist sport, dominates the sports pages and fans are rabid in their support. Bale’s heroics for Wales at Euro 2016, and Wales’s surprising progress through the tournament, reaching the semi-finals, was one of the stories of the sporting summer.
While his exploits for Real Madrid, including scoring a goal in the penalty shoot-out which helped them win the Champions’ League final, are largely off the radar in terms of his SPOTY vote appeal, Bale is assured a huge Welsh vote on the night.
Jamie Vardy was the headline player in Leicester’s fairytale Premier League win, scoring 24 goals, and his rise from non-league football to England international is real Roy Of The Rovers stuff. Vardy looks guaranteed to get a big vote among Leicester City fans, as well as having vote appeal (like Bale) among the wider football public.
Going back to 1984, a GB Summer Olympics team has won Sports Personality Team of the Year 8 times in succession, with the Olympic and Paralympic teams sharing the award in 2000 and 2012
The football vote is something of a hidden vote and while Vardy and Bale will poll poorly in the various online polls such as The Telegraph’s, they are the two jokers in the pack. The view here is, they are both capable of polling in the top 4 on the night, and the powerful Welsh lobby probably gives Bale the edge in terms of top 3 prospects.
Leicester City remain in pole position to win the Team of The Year award as their Premier League win was probably the greatest David and Goliath sporting story the country has ever seen. With Claudio Ranieri in the running for the Coach of the Year award, and Vardy shortlisted for the main award, there is a line of thought the BBC could fudge things in favour of TeamGB and ParalympicGB who both achieved record medal hauls.
Going back to 1984, a GB Summer Olympics team has won Sports Personality Team of the Year 8 times in succession, with the Olympic and Paralympic teams sharing the award in 2000 and 2012.
While the view here is, it would be a shocking snub if Leicester City do not win the Team award, there is no denying those impressive stats and it would come as no surprise if the Beeb reward Team GB and ParalympicGB jointly instead.
Gareth Bale – top 3 finish – 5-2 – 2pt win – William Hill, Paddy Power
Jamie Vardy – without Murray – 16-1 – 1pt e/w (3 places, a fifth the odds) – Coral
Team of the Year – Any British Olympic or Paralympic Team – 7-2 – 1pt win – William Hill