The BBC Sports Personality of the Year award ceremony may still be ten months away, but bookmakers are already taking bets on the most likely candidates to lift the trophy in December. According to William Hill, boxer Anthony Joshua is favourite at 9/1, with racing driver Lewis Hamilton and sprinter Dina Asher-Smith close behind at 10/1. England rugby captain Owen Farrell is available at 14/1.
Given every year since 1954, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year is chosen by the British public and rewards the sportsperson who is considered to have achieved the most in the previous 12 months.
Though the early favourite, Joshua will likely have to defeat either Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder to capture the British imagination enough to win the award. Despite being the most successful British racing driver of all time, Lewis Hamilton is often overlooked in this competition and may find that even winning a sixth world championship is not enough to secure the public vote.
A New Generation of Sporting Stars
Though footballers are well represented among the winners, competitors from less popular sports are often rewarded if they produce notable performances on the biggest stages. Cycling, for instance, is not much of a spectator sport in the UK, but Tour de France winners and Olympic medalists do garner significant attention.
The same is also true for athletics. Asher-Smith is one of the most talented young sprinters in the world and won gold medals at the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay races at the European Championships in Berlin last year. Should she put in a similarly impressive performance in the World Championships in Qatar this autumn, she should achieve some voter momentum.
Unfortunately, the award does tend to favour male athletes. For a brief moment in the early 2000s it seemed that the accolade gap between male and female sportspeople might be lessening, with three women winning the award in five years. However, since Zara Phillips in 2006 no British woman has claimed the trophy.
Rugby players are also undervalued by the competition. It took a dramatic World Cup win to secure victory for Jonny Wilkinson, who is still the sport’s only representative among the winners. Should England pull off an equally impressive victory in Japan later in the year, Farrell stands a great chance of riding public enthusiasm through to BBC glory.