Vote Inverdale - The Snow In The Summer or So-So

8December
Sports Personality of the Year

The BBC Sports Review of the First Eleven And A Bit Months of the Year is almost upon us, and the shortlist for Most Popular British Person in Sport has been announced. We couldn't give a monkey's who wins - after this year's performances the real winner will finish second - we're more interested in the psephology.

Prior to the vote came the nomination process. The qualification is that all contenders must be British, or be UK-resident, play their sport in the UK, and have made their main achievements with a UK team. Overseas players whose main claim to fame is the Division I title are eligible; overseas players who play in the UK best known for winning the football World Cup are not.

This year, 31 national and regional newspapers, magazines, and comics were invited to submit their top ten sports people. That's a reduction of six from last year. Out from the panel went four newspapers from the West Midlands: Sunday Mercury, Express and Star, Coventry Evening Telegraph, Birmingham Mail. The Belfast Newsletter has been removed from the panel, they only sent one nominee last year, and Northern Ireland is already represented by the Belfast Telegraph. Also out went Metro, the Daily Hell for urban commuters; and national daily comics Sun and Daily Star. Yep, the biggest selling national daily comic is off the panel.

The public was entirely disenfranchised this year; last time, the top ten in the website and postal votes went through. This does bring the legitimacy of the whole award into greater question than usual: as m'learned friend Mr. Pokery has previously written, the voting was traditionally conducted through a coupon in the Rusty Old Radio Times. This was augmented by an internet ballot in 1996, and a premium-rate telephone plebiscite amongst the top six in the public poll was introduced in 1999 for the Sports Personality Of The First 998.95 Years Of The Millennium programme; only since then has the programme been billed as Sports Personality of the [First Eleven And A Bit Months Of The] Year. This year, for the first time ever, the public has had no hand in deciding the shortlist, and we cannot possibly see this as progress.

Replacing the public and those regional papers for 2007 are the two Johnston Press publications, Scotland on Sunday and Scotsman; Sport magazine (Sport Media), which has rather passed us by because it's another London freesheet, and ethnic newspaper The Voice (GV Media), which has headed off charges of racial bias perfectly well. The only regional newspaper left in England is the Daily Post (Liverpool and north Wales).

Breaking these down by ownership groups, we have:

(EMAP yesterday sold its Zoo comic to Bauer.)

The 31 various panels listed 53 people, as follows:

31 votes
Joe Calzaghe [boxer, received 31 votes last year. Winner of BBC Wales's equivalent trophy in 2007, 2006, and 2001.]
Lewis Hamilton [formula 1 driver, finished second overall]

29 votes
Ricky Hatton [boxer, in action on Radio 5 to-night, the night before the award. Received 10 votes last year]

23 votes
Justin Rose [golfer, won European money list]

22 votes
Paula Radcliffe [runner, won New Amsterdam marathon race. Won in 2002, 3rd in 2003.]

16 votes
Andy Murray [tennis, last remaining Brit in the top 50. Won Scottish SPotY when it was last contested in 2005.]

15 votes
Jonny Wilkinson [rugbyman, part of world cup-losing England side. Won in 2003.]

12 votes
James Toseland [motorcyclist, won the world superbike format.]

11 votes
Jason Robinson [rugbyman, part of England side.]

10 votes
Christine Ohuruogu [runner, 400m world champion.]

The following candidates failed to make the top ten.

9 votes
Seb Sanders [jockey, joint winner of the flat race title.]

6 votes
Cristiano Ronaldo [footballer, Manchester Buccaneers and Portugal. Arguable eligibility.]
James McFadden [footballer, Everton and Scotland.]
Nicole Cooke [cyclist, twice-winner of the Tour Feminin. 20 votes last year; winner of Wales SPotY 2003.]

5 votes
Frankie Dettori [jockey, won the Derby; 3rd in 1996.]
Jamie Murray [tennis, brother of Andy.]
Ryan Giggs [footballer, Manchester Buccaneers and Wales. 1 vote last year, won Wales SPotY in 1996.]
Victoria Pendleton [cyclist, triple gold at track championships.]

4 votes
Amir Khan [boxer, Commonwealth champion. 5 votes last year.]
David Haye [boxer, cruiserweight world champion.]
Jamie Spencer [jockey, joint winner of the flat title with Sanders.]
Wayne Rooney [footballer, Manchester Buccaneers and England. 1 vote last year]

3 votes
Cesc Fabregas [footballer, Arsenal and Spain. Questionable eligibility.]
Dario Franchitti [driver, indy car and Indy 500 champ.]
Mark Ramprakash [cricketer and dancer, Surrey, averaged 100 runs for the second season running, won Strictly Come Prancing. 3 votes last year]
Tony McCoy [jockey, champion steeplechaser for the 12th year running. 8 votes last year; 3rd in 2002]

2 votes
Alistair Cook [cricketer, Essex and England, centuries against Australia and the Windies.]
Andrew Priaulx [driver, world touring car champ for third year in a row.]
Andrew Sheridan [rugbyman, Sale and England, did well against Australia.]
David Healy [footballer, Fulham and Northern Ireland, single-handedly beat Sweden. 1 vote last year]
John Higgins [snooker, world champion.]
Kelly Smith [footballer, Arsenal and England, instrumental in league / cup / league cup / UEFA cup four-play.]
Monty Panesar [cricketer, Northants and England, ten wickets at Manchester. Wisden cricketer of the year. Topped the poll with 33 votes last year.]
Paul Collingwood [cricketer, England and Durham, two centuries against the Windies. Wisden cricketer of the year.]

1 vote: Aaron Hadlow [kitesurfer], Andy Gomarsall [rugbyman], Chris Hoy [cyclist; 2 votes last year], Chris Paterson [rugbyman], Colin Montgomerie [golfer; 7 votes last year], David Beckham [flyer; winner in 2001, runner-up in 1999 and 2002], Enzo Maccarinelli [boxer], Frank Lampard [footballer], James Hook [rugbyman], John Terry [footballer; 6 votes last year], Julie Fleeting [footballer], Junior Witter [boxer], Katherine Grainger [rower], Kevin Pietersen [cricketer; 1 vote last year], Mark Cavendish [cyclist], Rob Burrow [rugbyleagueman], Rory McIlroy [golfer], Sam Burgess [rugbyleagueman], Steven Gerrard [footballer; 3 votes last year].

Standing out here is the remarkable success of boxers, aggregating 70 votes for a sport that has had a relatively low television profile for over a decade. Rugbymen had their world cup, 31 votes for union, and 2 for league. Motorsport drivers had 48 nominations, almost all for two people. Top two runners secured 32 votes, but there's no depth in talent, and no male runner picked up a vote. The football vote was split many ways, 30 votes for the men, 3 for women's football. 25 votes for golfers, 21 for tennis - but nothing for Tim Henman in his retirement year. 21 votes for jockeys, 13 for cyclists, 10 for cricketers, and three other sports picked up an odd vote or two.

Was there a block vote amongst one of the newspaper groups? Probably not, there are some interesting facts, but we hesitate to draw conclusions. For instance, Ohuruogu got no support from the Hell group, and Sanders had nothing from the Murdoch press; indeed, only one of the Murdoch groups's 30 nods went to jockeys.

What would we like to see? A better spread of regional press is vital: it is completely wrong that a very successful rugby league season should result in just two nominees out of 310. As it stands, the award is decided by the London press, which will reflect its traditions and preferences (boxing, rugby union, football) and ignore sports that are locally popular elsewhere in the country. Part of the blame must also go to the BBC, which prefers to show endless amounts of football, rugby, racing, snooker, and athletics, and completely ignores sports like cycling, hockey, basketball, and speedway. Add to the list a paper from Newcastle, one from the Leeds area, something from Manchester, one (and only one) of the West Midlands papers, the Western Daily for Bristol, something from Devon or Cornwall, a rep from the Solent, and one from East Anglia. We'd also split the BBC Panel into two: Journalists and Former Winners, on the assumption that a SP of a Previous Y will be well-placed to find SP of *this* Y. Mr. Pokery's suggestion from last year, that specialist magazines should have a voice, bears some consideration.

And finally, bring back the public vote right from the start. Give the exercise something more than a figleaf of democracy.

Addendum: Mr. Pokery has contributed his own thoughts on how a sportsperson might win the title; and our own follow-up

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