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Great Britain

Ben Stokes was obvious choice for SPOTY but footballers fall short once again

BEN STOKES was the obvious choice for BBC Sports Personality — but once again football’s representative was an also-ran.

Stokes, a charismatic all-rounder and the first cricketer to scoop the award in 14 years, was his sport’s fifth winner in  65 years of SPOTY.

That is exactly the same number of winners as football, easily the world’s most popular sport.

I don’t know the ratio of those who follow football to those who watch cricket but 50 to one wouldn’t surprise me.

Athletics — with no fewer than 18 winners — does so well because men and women compete as individuals and Olympic or World Championship golds have serious leverage. That still fails to explain why football has so few.

You might say our players have been poor for a long time.

Here’s a list to prove that is untrue — a list moreover that hasn’t a single SPOTY winner…

Keeper Peter Shilton who still holds the England record with 125 caps, Wayne Rooney (115 caps) and fellow centurions Frank Lampard, Billy Wright and, for Scotland, Kenny Dalglish.

England star Ben Stokes named Sports Personality of the Year 2019 after cricket world cup victory

Oh, and don’t forget George Best, Kevin Keegan, Harry Kane, Alan Shearer and Raheem  Sterling. Yet the contributions of some winners were pretty modest.

Take two of them — Princess Anne of the immensely popular sport  “eventing” (9 out of 10 if you know what that is) and cricketer David Steele, who fended off a feared Aussie attack and scored a lone Test century. Why not, you may ask, Jack Leach?

In more distant days there was often the distinct aroma of a fix.

This I’m sure is no longer true and when I checked why Denis Law, the 1964 Ballon d’Or winner, had not won that year I found he was beaten by athlete Mary Rand.

She was an Olympic gold, silver and bronze medallist — in different events — and described by Mick Jagger as his dream date.

Law, who scored 237 times for Manchester United, made Sunday’s presentation, maybe because it was in his home town of Aberdeen.

He was part of that great 1960s team that included Best and Bobby Charlton. And guess what? Universally admired Charlton didn’t win SPOTY either.

Between Bobby Moore in 1966 and Paul Gascoigne in 1990 not one footballer took the award.

Gazza, like Stokes, overcame naughtiness to accept the prize, whereas the only superstar trophy Best won was Miss World.

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