With the changes in the selection process for Sports Personality of the Year 2012 announced last week, it seems like an appropriate time to take a look at potential winners and try and find some value in the markets.

First things first; it seems clear that we will have an Olympic winner. In the past three Olympic years, Sir Steve Redgrave, Dame Kelly Holmes and Sir Chris Hoy have won and seven of the nine podium spots have been occupied by Olympians. Athletes are historically very popular, having won the award seventeen times; for context, the next closest sport is Formula One with six winners. As a quick example, Mo Farah beat Rory McIlroy to third place last year despite the Northern Irishman being a shorter price in the market.

If you had a crystal ball, or a basic instinct for value, you could have got Bradley Wiggins at odds of 100/1 immediately after last year’s event. Since then he’s been odds-on after becoming the first Brit to ever win Tour de France on 22nd July, and was as short as 1/12 after his Time Trial win on 1st August. There’s a case for arguing he represents value at 4/6 with SkyBet and Paddy Power, but it’s hard to get too excited at this price. What Wiggins also has in his favour is a strong image – he launched the Bradley Wiggins Foundation on Tuesday with a star-studded event full of his Olympic pals at the Camden Roundhouse, and this cultivated yet more column inches devoted to the ‘Modfather’ and his famous sideburns.

In any other year Andy Murray would pretty much have it in the bag. A US Open win, a Wimbledon final defeat where he finally endeared himself to the British public, and an Olympic gold represents the best year yet of his impressive career, but it’ll be a tough ask to beat his more decorated Olympic compatriots, and there’s a feeling that Murray will be ‘due’ the prize should he ever win Wimbledon. You only have to look at your Facebook and Twitter feeds to see that there are still pockets of the British public who still haven’t warmed to him and I can’t see much to justify investing at 4/1 (Ladbrokes).

Next up is Mo Farah, the nice guy whose beaming smile won the hearts of the British public this summer. He was third last year despite ‘only’ winning gold and silver at the World Championships. This year he went one better doing the 5000m and 10,000m double in the Olympics, and both were done on a Saturday night in front of a prime time, family audience. Whilst you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t respect Wiggins’ achievement in winning the Tour, the number of people that actually watched his victory on ITV4 is miniscule compared to Farah’s. His face is currently plastered on billboards around the country as part of a Virgin advertising campaign which, coupled with his ‘Mobot’, makes Mo extremely tempting at 11/2 with Bet365.

Jess Ennis was undoubtedly the poster girl of the games and she’s received significant media coverage since being on the front page of the Daily Mail a few days ago. Her gold was one of the first of the games and set the tone for Team GB. Given the outcry at an absence of female nominees last year there will be added focus on the performance of any women nominated. At 12/1 (Betfred) she represents a decent shout, and she’s achieved third place twice before which shows the public clearly like her. However, I’ve got a sneaking feeling one of the big boys will beat her this year.

There was a much bigger focus on the Paralympics this year and both David Weir and Ellie Simmonds have outstanding claims to the prize, Weir having won four gold medals and Simmonds two. However there’s a feeling that the Paralympic vote will be split between the two, much in the way that the golf vote is normally split, and it’s unlikely we’ll see a Paralympic winner. Nevertheless there is a chance that Simmonds or Weir could sneak onto the podium, and odds of 19/1 with Betfair for Simmonds appeal.

Sometimes the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist can be a little disappointing, but this year’s is truly exceptional. Any of the twelve nominees will be worthy winners, and no matter who wins, it will be great to sit down and celebrate true British talent. Enjoy.

Jonnie Barnett

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