Andy Murray was crowned the 2015 BBC Sports Personality of the Year (Spoty) for the second time in his career in December, following his inspirational performances for Great Britain in tennis’ Davis Cup. The Scot won all eight of his singles matches and all three doubles, meaning he contributed 11 instrumental points to Britain’s total of 12. Britain has certainly taken Murray to its heart.
Murray obtained 35% of the vote, with his biggest challenger being Kevin Sinfield, the Rugby League star, who won 28% of votes cast. Sinfield, the first Rugby League player to be nominated for the award, led Leeds Rhinos to the domestic treble in 2015 capping off an illustrious career before his switch to Rugby Union. There was little to split the rest of the field with athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill narrowly beating boxer Tyson Fury to third place.
Perhaps the most surprising result was Lucy Bronze finishing in tenth place, despite starring in England’s best ever finish in the Women’s World Cup. The team suffered heartbreak in the semi-final and eventually achieved third place. However, the very fact that she was shortlisted highlights the progress the sport is making. This is further illustrated by the fact that 2.4 million people tuned in for the semi-final, despite the midnight kick-off.
Among those overlooked for the award was boxer Anthony Crolla. At the start of the year, Crolla was in hospital ‘“lucky to be alive”, having suffered a fractured skull. After spotting two burglars leaving a neighbour’s house he had chased and apprehended one of them, before being hit over the head with a concrete slab by the other. His lightweight world title fight scheduled for January of this year was cancelled and the boxer’s dreams were ‘in tatters’.
Many would have retired. However, Crolla vowed on his hospital bed that he would come back “bigger and stronger”. He returned in July to fight Darleys Parvez, a fight which ended in a draw although many were of the opinion that he deserved to win. However Crolla did not leave it to the judges in November. An excellent left-hook knocked down Perez in the fifth round and, after Perez was unable to make the count, Crolla won the WBA lightweight title. Few sportsmen or women displayed the personality that he did in 2015.
Crolla’s omission for the shortlist could be seen as being testament to the status of boxing on the fringes of mainstream sport. Possibly another victim of this is cricket’s Joe Root. He was the man of the series in a successful Ashes victory and briefly ranked the number one test batsman in the world, but he also missed out on the shortlist. For cricket fans, this is a worrying sign that the sport is diminishing in public conversation and Root himself called it a “wake-up call for cricket”. However, it is hard to see any change until ticket prices are reduced or it returns to free-to-air television.
While the absence of Crolla and Root from the shortlist is questionable, it is clear that Andy Murray did a great deal to deserve the award. Despite being Great Britain’s tenth title, it was their first for 79 years, having not won it since 1936. Murray, who was also voted Sports Personality of the Year in 2013, not only won all 11 of his rubbers but also won all three of Britain’s points in the final, beating Belgium’s David Goffin in straight sets to seal the trophy in Ghent. After receiving the SPOTY award, Murray said “this has been a five year journey – we were down in the bottom level of tennis and now we’re number one.”