A Muz-Win Situation

Nov 30, 2016 by

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


  1. Rob

    Boylesports have opened betting this afternoon & offer better value of Bale 11-4 to be top 3, & 9-2 any British Olympic or Paralympic team.

    • Alpie

      Rob, thanks for the comments. There must be a good story in addition to sporting success. Most of the nominees had brilliant success in 2016 but only one of them has an impressive narrative that people can talk about. He is shining to win this year’s competition if football fans don’t heavily get behind Bale or Vardy. Guess who it might be?

  2. Enjoyed reading your analysis Rob. It does look to me like a Muzz-Brownlee 1-2, as does the market. I have a feeling that Murray’s win at the O2 was crucial. Without that, my hunch is that the human element of the Brownlee bid would have seen him go very close (he could still go quite close as it is). As you say the slight doubt is how much the events of Mexico will be covered on the night, especially as there are 16 VTs to rattle through. You’d have to think it will be covered sufficiently as it simply just makes good TV.

    Who else will join them in the top 3 I’m struggling with a bit. I’m certainly wary of the footballers for the reasons you say – it may only be on the night that the football fans galvanise themselves into showing their support for their season’s heroes. They are very much wildcards. If you were a Leicester fan in particular why wouldn’t you vote for Vardy. That said I can also easily see such team players getting a bit lost without any organised campaign behind them as there are so many other stand out performances. The apparent inevitability of Murray could also maybe lessen the motivation to vote in large numbers for someone else.

    I’m trying to think back to 2009 and Giggs. It was before I bet on SPOTY with any seriousness. Can you remember much about when it first became apparent Giggs was in with a chance? I seem to remember it was only on the night that his odds really started to shrink? Any support behind Bale is certainly very muted at the moment but that could change quickly I suppose.

    I agree that Leicester should win Team of the Year. It would surely look bizarre to kids in the future looking back at the record books and seeing they hadn’t won it this year. I’m with you in hoping betting wise that it goes to an Olympic team. The hockey team won the moment of the Games last night at the Team GB ball as decided by the BBC and there seems a lot of public engagement with the girls. And a joint prize would tick a few boxes. We shall see..

    • Rob

      Thanks for your post, Paul. Back in 2009, a good few shrewdies latched onto Giggs as soon as he was announced on the shortlist. It rapidly became apparent the Man Utd fans would support him to the hilt.

      Ryan Giggs 151,842 (29.40%) – WINNER
      Jenson Button 96,770 (18.74%) – 2ND
      Jess Ennis 80,469 (15.58%) – 3RD
      Mark Cavendish 55,960 (10.84%)
      Beth Tweddle 38,907 (7.53%)
      Tom Daley 36,929 (7.15%)
      Andy Murray 19,936 (3.86%)
      Andrew Strauss 17,237 (3.34%)
      David Haye 13,916 (2.69%)
      Phillips Idowu 4,507 (0.87%)

      Total votes: 516,473

      I can see the Olympic vote being split so quite easy (in theory) for the 2 footballers to surpass them. I am pretty confident Wales will get behind Bale massively, and the Leicester City fans will do likewise with Vardy.

      In 2009, the tannoy man at Old Trafford was telling fans to make sure they voted. I’d expect the same sort of thing when Leicester play at home in the lead up to the event.

      Farah has disappointed in the past. Laura Trott (Kenny) will probably come out best of the Olympians, outside of Muzza and Brownlee, but I can easily see Bale and Vardy both pushing top 3/4 & ready to pounce if Brownlee doesn’t get the required coverage.

      I suppose there is a small risk of voter apathy with Murray. Certainly a lively top 3 market this year on BF 🙂

  3. M8

    Worth mentioning though while football fans are very rabid, Leicester City are not a huge club and I question the size of their fanbase when it comes to a vote like this. Do they really have the juice to push Vardy into the top 3/4? For me I don’t think Leicester fans could do it on their own and they’ll need support from the wider footballing community. Bale is the big NAP for me. He has a whole country behind him as you say and no doubt Wales will be voting in their droves. You’d imagine Spurs fans will be getting behind their old boy as well. I can certainly see him sneaking into third place and I’ve jumped on him while the odds are decent.

    • Rob

      Hi M8. I think the key element this year is, the power of committed multi-voters, & my view is Leicester City fans and Wales fans will be the biggest, committed multi-voters out there.

      This is the reason why the Beeb has run scared of shortlisting footballers since Giggs ran away with it. Yes, Man Utd are a bigger club but the power of the football vote should never be under-estimated – there is a powerful, tribal loyalty at work.

      I don’t think single votes for the likes of Trott and Farah are going to cut it in comparison.

  4. Black n Blue

    Lots of good insight and analysis Rob. I have to disagree on your verdict on Andy Murray. Although 2016 has been his most successful year to date, it is almost a facsimile of his 2012 season. A major win coupled with Olympic Gold, only got him 3rd place with half the vote Of the winner four years ago. The difficulty I have seeing Murray win, is that his achievements have already been recognised by SPOTY, over-recognised if anything. The viewers at home know this, and if they don’t they’ll be reminded of it during the broadcast. People love an underdog, and as soon as the underdog has won, they find a new one.

    Lewis Hamilton’s treatment is particularly analogous of this. He won SPOTY in 2014 after being snubbed six years earlier, yet he dropped like a stone in the vote the following year despite winning the championship in an even more dominant fashion.

    This is why my tip to win is Mo. He’s a tremendous record breaking athlete, and probably an even more tremendous person, with bucket loads of modesty and charm. He was the star athlete of the Olympic Games, and without Wiggins, Ennis or Hoy to contend with, there is a clear path to for an athlete to win. Whereas Murray has clearly had his achievements recognised, Mo has not. He is the perfect underdog, and considering his current price, he is well worth a punt.

    • Alpie

      Rob, what is the last situation about the polls and feeling about the candidates?

      • Rob

        Murray comfortably winning the online polls I have seen, Alpie, with Brownlee 2nd. 3rd very much up for grabs – Mo Farah and Laura Trott popular.

        • Alpie

          Rob, could you give the web links where we can find the latest poll results? it looks like Brownlee is leading on twitter.

          • Rob

            Online polls very much dependant on readership. Alpie, & often not aligned with the core BBC SPOTY vote audience.

            I think you need to be thinking about broadsheet-reading Middle England which is why the only one I pay much attention to is the Telegraph’s:

            Murray 41% and Brownlee 24% on that: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2016/11/28/bbc-sports-personality-year-award-nominees-named-no-space/

            Online polls also do not factor in the ‘multi-voting effect’ which for me should aid Vardy and Bale the most. Skelton has been popular in the top 3 market largely because of the Olympia Horse Show this week. He still faces an uphill battle for me.

            Ladbrokes has opened a ‘predict Muzza’s vote percentage market’

            Percentage of votes for Andy Murray
            Under 20% – 8/1
            20-30% – 4/1
            30-40% – 3/1
            40-50% – 5/2
            50-60% – 4/1
            60-70% – 10/1
            Over 70% – 25/1

    • I disagree with your that Andy Murray has been “over recognised” for his achievements. In 2013 he was recognised for being the first male player to win a grand slam for years (US open) and perhaps more importantly winning Wimbledon ( first British male player for 77 years). In 2015 he lead the British team to victory in the Davis Cup (first time in 79 years). That took five years to take the team from their lowest ranking in 2010 to winning in 2015. Remember that during that time Andy had to go through back surgery and battle back up the rankings in 2014. That took a year of hard work! This year he first consolidated his number 2 position in the rankings, then after the birth of his daughter and a month off to be with his family he embarked on the best year of his career. He has won 78 out of 87 matches this year, been in 3 of the 4 grand slam finals, won Wimbledon again, won another gold medal at the Olympics (something no other tennis player has done before), taken the British Davis Cup team as far as the semi finals, won the World Tour Finals and become the world number 1. None of the above was easy, he has had to battle against strong opposition to win all of those tournaments and when you think that to become men’s singles number 1 Andy had to close a gap of over 8000 points between himself and Novak Djokovic the enormity of his achievements becomes clear. Andy Murray is without a doubt the best tennis player Britain has produced for at least 80 years and has won everything there is to win in his sport so he definitely deserves to win this year’s SPOTY.

  5. Rob

    SPOTY 2016 preview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b085k28d/bbc-sports-personality-of-the-year-2016-the-contenders

    Muzza Brownlee top 2 looks very likely based on this. Still think Bale and Vardy are the value to finish top 3 – good VTs for both.

    • Alpie

      People vote for stories & successes and this year’s story belongs to Brownlee despite Murray has an incredible year. The gap between 41% vs 24% can easily be closed on the night in greater voting numbers.

  6. Rob

    Very surprised by the poor polling figures of both the footballers. Brownlee was somewhat buried early on, & Skelton helped by a later slot and a Clare Balding ramp.

    Also surprised by the very low turnout. In an Olympic year I expected much higher voting numbers. Sophie Christiansen deserved even higher than 5th – a true inspiration.

    The Muzza win, & Brownlee in the w/o market ensured a profit overall. Just a shame not to have been able to nail 3rd.

    Vote breakdown:

    Murray 247419
    Brownlee 121665
    Skelton 109197
    Farah 54476
    Christiansen 37284
    Richardson-Walsh 34604
    Whitlock 32858
    L Kenny 31781
    Vardy 25020
    J Kenny 12376
    Peaty 11129
    Bale 10786
    Adams 7812
    Cox 5574
    Storey 3580
    Willett 2227

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