On Sunday 14th December, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) 2014 will take place in Glasgow. A showcase for the very best in British sporting talent, the 61st edition of the awards is also a unique opportunity to have a flutter. There’s no shortage of contenders for the grand prize, but who can we expect to take home the main gong? Take a look below at the runners and riders (and golfers) competing for the top individual award.
If you have a wicked sense of humour, bookies are taking bets on a Steven Gerrard victory: 100/1 with Winner Sports, in fact. The Liverpool legend saw the English Premier League title slip from his grasp in May; he then captained England to World Cup ignominy and an early exit. This is a bet reserved solely for the brave, and the odd Liverpool fan.
After the euphoria of winning Wimbledon in 2013, the reigning SPOTY holder hasn’t had the greatest 2014 by his own high standards. Nevertheless, you can back this tennis star to retain his title with odds of 100/1 at Ladbrokes Sports.
Everyone loves a successful British export, and Gareth Bale has been setting the Bernabeu alight since moving to Real Madrid; he’s 100/1 with Bet365 Sports to claim victory in Glasgow.
Elsewhere, British skeleton racer Lizzy Yarnold won gold at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics – at odds of 100/1 to win SPOTY, it’s worth a pound.
Nottingham boxer Carl Froch is a 50/1 outsider; the Cobra famously knocked out George Groves in front of 80,000 people at Wembley, giving him slightly more than a fighting chance at the top prize.
The Bristol-born gymnast made a “stunning breakthrough” at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Aged just 16 at the time, Fragapane became the first Englishwoman in 84 years to win four gold medals at the Games. The young star is now firmly setting her sights on competing at her first Olympics in Rio. Having only recently completed her GCSEs, Fragapane told the BBC she’s been overwhelmed by her new-found fame. A victory in the SPOTY would cap an extraordinary year for the teenager, and Bet365 Sports think there’s an outside chance of a win at 40/1.
The sentimental choice, perhaps, but there’s no doubting that Jonny Wilkinson has had a distinguished rugby union career. In May, the legendary fly-half announced his retirement from the game, and has since dipped his toes into the world of punditry. But his sporting achievements in 2014 are considerable too; he led Toulon to victory in the Heineken Cup Final and delivered a “trademark kicking display” in his last ever game, winning the Top 14 Final in Paris. The bookies can’t agree on the chances of a Wilkinson win; you can currently get 28/1 with Betway Sports or 40/1 with Paddy Power Sports.
A real contender for the top-three, long-distance runner Jo Pavey has had a fantastic year, winning the 10,000m gold at the European Championships in Zurich. The Guardian describes Pavey’s victory as “one of the year’s great sporting stories”, and it’s hard to disagree. A fantastic sporting role model, the 41-year-old Pavey is already plotting her fifth Olympic Games appearance. Betfair Sports is currently offering odds of 11/1 for a Pavey victory in Glasgow.
Perhaps the only genuine rival to the favourite, Lewis Hamilton is having a barnstorming 2014 – and he’s not finished yet. The Mercedes driver has built a commanding lead in the F1 championship, which reaches a climax in Abu Dhabi on November 23rd. He has been “the outstanding driver of the 2014 Formula One season”, and recently claimed his 32nd Grand Prix win, surpassing Nigel Mansell’s British record. At the time of writing, Bet365 Sports is offering odds of 6/1 on a Hamilton SPOTY win – good value if you get in quick.
Sometimes you get a slow year for UK sport – Greg Rusedski scooping the prize in 1997 springs to mind – and sometimes, like in 2012, the voters are spoilt for choice. This time around, most of the smart money is going on one major contender: Rory McIlroy. The current world number one bagged the 2014 Open Championship in July, then helped Europe to a historic victory in the Ryder Cup. If he wins SPOTY, McIlroy would be the third golfer to win the competition. The Daily Mail thinks the case is “so overwhelming it would, quite frankly, damage the credibility of the award if Rory McIlroy didn’t win it”. You can back Rory McIlroy at 1/7 with Ladbrokes Sports – a red-hot favourite if ever there was one.