SPOTY could be missing its top three stars
The BBC is growing increasingly concerned that next Sunday’s Sports Personality of the Year show could be blighted by the absence of the top three finishers in the public poll.
Andy Murray, the runaway favourite to win an unprecedented third title, is training in Miami with head coach Ivan Lendl, and will have to accept any award via video link.
Mo Farah – who was unenthusiastic about SPOTY in a recent newspaper interview – is also unlikely to be present, while Gareth Bale is laid up after recent surgery on an ankle injury. Bale’s agent confirmed yesterday that he will not be making the journey.
So while 2016 has been one of Great Britain’s finest sporting years on record, the BBC’s traditional end-of-year party could wind up being the first one to feature none of the podium finishers.
Presented by Gabby Logan, Clare Balding and Gary Lineker, the event will be staged next Sunday at the Genting Arena in Birmingham, which has a capacity of over 15,000 seats. Public tickets were priced at £45 and sold out soon after going on the market.
The organisers will be hoping for a strong vote for Alistair Brownlee, the triathlete listed by the bookmakers as the man most likely to break up the Murray-Farah-Bale axis.
Brownlee has gained extra gloss from his fairy-tale moment in Mexico in September, where he helped guide his cramping, staggering brother Jonny across the finish line. He, at least, is likely to be on hand to accept any award in person.
The BBC’s 16-strong shortlist was announced at the end of last month and came under fire for featuring none of the players involved in the England rugby team’s record-equalling sequence of 14 wins.
Another surprising absentee is Chris Froome, who won the Tour de France for the third time in four years, and caught the public imagination when he ran up Mont Ventoux after crashing into the back of a camera-carrying motorbike, Unsurprisingly, Froome is also expected to skip the event, which was launched in 1954 and retains an uncanny knack for starting arguments.