- Andy Murray is a two-time SPOTY winner and a firm favourite to succeed for the second year in a row after claiming his second Wimbledon crown, retaining his Olympic title and becoming world No.1 in 2016.
- Mo Farah, who came third in 2011, is the only one of the other 15 nominees to have ever previously finished in the top three, and is back in the running after landing the 5,000m and 10,000m double at the Rio Olympics.
- Of the 16 nominees, 13 secured Olympic or Paralympic gold medals this year. Jamie Vardy inspired Leicester City to a remarkable Premier League triumph, Gareth Bale was Wales’ talisman as they reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals and golfer Danny Willett became Masters champion.
- There have been more winners from athletics than any other sport, standing at 49, as well as more top-three finishes. A woman has not won the top award since Zara Phillips in 2006.
It is a subjective exercise to weigh up the merits of one sporting achievement against another and all 16 nominees will have their backers, but this year’s contest seems to be a one-horse race. Andy Murray’s accomplishments stand apart from everyone else’s, he deserves to win and almost certainly will win. This begs the question for punters, though, as to where they might be able to beat the bookies, and the solution is perhaps to explore the markets for a top-three finish or the winner without Murray.
Alistair Brownlee’s standing as second favourite seems to stem less from his stunning exploits as a double Olympic triathlon champion, and more from one incident at the World Series in Mexico when he came to the aid of his exhausted brother Jonny. As much as Brownlee’s act of selflessness characterises the sort of sportsmanship that SPOTY celebrates and the British public lap up those sort of heart-warming stories, he still doesn’t look great value at second favourite.
Mo Farah, dubbed Britain’s greatest ever athlete in some quarters after he won the long distance double again at Rio 2016, may be a better shout to win without Murray at 7/1. Laura Kenny, née Trott, also has the bubbly personality to win over voters in the year when she became Britain’s most successful female Olympian with four gold medals, and is 6/1 in the market that discounts Murray.
However, it could be that cycling fans are torn between Laura Kenny and husband Jason, and neither of them make the top three. Brownlee, Farah and other Olympians may also split the voters, leaving Gareth Bale as one to keep a close eye on. A number of Welshmen have seemingly come from nowhere to do well at SPOTY in recent years, with boxer Joe Calzaghe winning in 2007, Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs in 2009 and rugby player Leigh Halfpenny coming second in 2013. Wales’ national pride is sure to be stirred again on Sunday night as the story of their team’s run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals is recounted, and anyone who backs Bale to be in the top three at 4/1 may also have reason to smile.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Gareth Bale for a Top 3 Finish - 4/1
*Please note, odds may fluctuate.