Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Parrot of Doom
Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Parrot of Doom

BBC reveals Sports Personality of the Year 2020 shortlist

The BBC has revealed a shortlist of six contenders for this year’s Sports Personality of the Year.

Cricketer Stuart Broad, jockey Hollie Doyle, boxer Tyson Fury, Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, footballer Jordan Henderson and snooker world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan are the six nominees.

The public will vote for a winner during the SPOTY programme, either online or by phone, which will be aired on BBC One on Sunday 20 December.

Stuart Broad enjoyed an impressive summer, taking 29 wickets at 13.41 across five Tests against the West Indies and Pakistan. In the final two Tests, both won by England, he took 16 wickets at an average of 10.93 to pass 500 for his career. As a result, he is seventh in the list of all-time Test wicket-takers.

Hollie Doyle broke her own record for most wins achieved by a female jockey during a calendar year, and is currently on 136 wins for 2020. She rode a historic double on British Champions Day, she became the first woman to ride five winners on the same card and she took her first victory at Royal Ascot. Doyle is the youngest name on the list, at 24, and the only woman to be shortlisted this year. She has already been named the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year.

Tyson Fury, known as the ‘Gypsy King’, became a two-time world heavyweight champion after defeating Deontay Wilder in a Las Vegas rematch in February. The victory completed a remarkable comeback after Fury’s battle with depression and drugs. He was previously shortlisted for the award in 2015, and has petitioned the BBC to remove him from this year’s competition, stating: “I am the people’s champion and have no need for verification or any awards.”

Lewis Hamilton is statistically the greatest driver in F1 history. This year, he equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships with his fourth consecutive victory. The Stevenage-native also holds the records for most pole positions and most grand prix victories (98 and 95 respectively, at the time of publication). Off the track, Hamilton has been a vocal advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement, using his platform to push for greater racial diversity both within the sport and the wider world.

Jordan Henderson captained Liverpool to their first league title since 1990, which the team won by a margin of 19 points. This came a year after they won the UEFA Champions League. Henderson has been capped 58 times by England, and he was also named the Football Writers’ Association Men’s Player of the Year.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is widely regarded as the greatest player in snooker, and this year saw him win his sixth world title at the Crucible and reach the final of the Northern Ireland Open. He has won more events and Triple Crown event titles (37 and 20 respectively) than anyone in history. This year is his first nomination in his 28-year career, and the first time a snooker player has been nominated since 1990. O’Sullivan has frequently been considered one of SPOTY’s greatest snubs.

Other awards to be announced include Team and Coach of the Year, World Sport Star of the Year and Unsung Hero, while there will be a special award for Marcus Rashford in recognition of his efforts to raise awareness of child food poverty.

2020 has been an unusual year for sport, with the Olympics cancelled and many sporting fixtures rearranged.

Frankly, for the BBC to have assembled such an impressive list in such a strange sporting year is an achievement in itself

There hasn’t been too much reaction in terms of omissions – the only name that has really been floated is Jonathan Rea, who won his sixth consecutive WorldSBK Championship title.

To borrow a phrase from my F1 recaps, Hamilton goes into the SPOTY race the firm favourite. The stats speak for themselves – Hamilton is one of the greats, perhaps the GOAT, and his SPOTY record is impressive. He won in 2014, he was second place in 2007, 2017, 2018 and 2019, and he’s been nominated three other times.

F1 has been one of the success stories of the pandemic, and this is even before we come to Hamilton’s record on racial politics. 2020 is a year in which racial discrimination has been at the top of the agenda – Hamilton’s fight for equality is exactly the kind of story SPOTY loves in its winners.

It’s expected that Hamilton’s only serious rivals are O’Sullivan and Fury, the only two people on the list whose personalities really transcend their sports. O’Sullivan is undeniably talented and a favourite with the public, and his continued omission from the competition has been a frequent source of criticism – now he has finally been nominated, it’s probable fans will definitely turn out to vote.

Fury is also a viable contender for the prize, although there are fears that the recency bias of the SPOTY competition may work against him. His request to be removed from the shortlist has galvanised a lot of support for the boxer – it could transpire to be a genius tactic to hand Fury the prize, but we’ll have to wait and see. I don’t want to rule out Broad, Henderson or Doyle, but the smart money suggests that betting on any of them for the win isn’t the likeliest proposition.

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