BBC Sports Personality Of The Year 2011 - Mo FarahCyclist Mark Cavendish has been installed as the favourite with the bookmakers to land this year’s BBC Sports Personality Of The Year award. The Tour de France green jersey winner is no bigger than 2.20 (William Hill), but could there be early value elsewhere on the list?

Rupert Adams, spokesperson for bookmakers William Hill, said of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year favourite: “Mark Cavendish’s achievements have been genuinely exceptional and we believe he is the man to beat.”

But looking through the history of the BBC Sports Personality award, which dates back to 1954, only two figures from the world of cycling have managed to take the crown and cycling is very much a minority sport in Britain. Last year’s winner – jumps jockey Tony “A.P.” McCoy – has been champion of his sport for an incredible sixteen years in a row and until last year, never got a look in with the Sports Personality award.

It took a huge campaign from the racing world, spearheaded by the industry’s major publication the Racing Post, to launch McCoy to the fame he deserved and winning the Grand National, a race close to heart of the British public gave him the platform to do so. Success in your field does not guarantee a BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, particularly when then sport is a minority one.

At the prices, Mark Cavendish represents no value at all. Second favourite Darren Clarke has a much better chance of winning, due to the popularity of golf in Britain. Landing this year’s Open Championship puts Clarke in with a cracking chance of winning, but the last golfer to win the award was Nick Faldo back in 1989 (also after winning the Open).

However, a second Open Championship arrived for Faldo in 1992 but he didn’t even finish in the top three of Sports Personality that year, once again showing that sporting success in your field is not always enough – there needs to be a little something extra.

Athletics has always been a rich source of BBC Sports Personality of the Year winners, with a total of 17 to date (and a further 13 runners up and 12 third place finishes). This leads us to think that backing Mo Farah at a much healthier price of 9.00 could be the value play.

Farah has had an excellent 2011, kicking the year off in style by winning gold at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in March. Later in 2011, Farah took silver in the 10,000m at the World Championships, before winning gold in the 5,000m at the same event. In doing so, he became the first Brit to win a global title at the distance.

But most importantly of all, Mo Farah has real charisma and is a genuinely likeable character. His humble beginnings in Somalia before arriving in London as a child give him a real underdog quality that the British public just adore and he will have plenty of supporters as the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year award looms closer. His price will surely be much shorter come December.

Here’s a brief guide to the leading BBC Sports Personality Of The Year 2011 contenders:

Mark Cavendish
Current best price – 2.20 (Ladbrokes, William Hill)

A former track cyclist, Cavendish switched to road racing in 2006 and immediately made an impact, winning a record equalling 11 races in his first professional year. His 20 Tour de France victories leave him tied in sixth place on the all time list.

In 2011 Cavendish won five Tour de France stages, claiming the Green Jersey in the process, the only British rider ever to do so. He also won the London Surrey Cycle Classic, the official test event for the 2012 Summer Olympics road race. Cavendish was also awarded the MBE in 2011. Perhaps he will add another honour to his CV, in the form of the 2011 Sports Personality award?

Darren Clarke
Current best price – 3.30 (Betfair)

Clarke’s 2011 has seen him win a first European Tour title since 2008 in the Iberdrola Open, before winning the 2011 Open Championship at the 20th time of asking, aged 42.

Back in 2006, Clarke finished second in the Sports Personality Of The Year after his wife Heather lost a long battle with breast cancer. Clarke had missed several tournaments that year to care for her, and just six weeks after her death, he put in an impressive series of performances at the Ryder Cup. Could he go one better this year?

Mo Farah
Current best price – 9.00 (Bet365, Stan James, William Hill)

Farah has spent the whole of 2011 winning races and breaking records. He began the year by winning at the Edinburgh Cross Country event in January, before breaking the European 5,000m indoor record in February.

A month later, Farah snatched gold at the European Indoor Championships, when he won the 3,000m event, but his most impressive performance of 2011 was undoubtedly at the World Championships at the end of August, where he finishing second in the 10,000m race, before taking gold in the 5,000m. Will Mo win yet another gold medal in the 2011 Sports Personality of the Year award?

Rory McIlroy
Current best price – 10.00 (Bet365)

Rory McIlroy is already making the transition from one of golf’s brightest prospects to one of the best players in the game, at just 22 years old. The man from Hollywood in Northern Ireland found himself the early leader of the Masters Tournament back in April, but conspired to throw the tournament away with a horrible final two days.

McIlroy more than made amends in June though, as he claimed his first major win, at the US Open. McIlroy also landed the richest prize in golf during 2011, as he won the Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters, for a first prize of $2,000,000. But can money buy you a BBC Sports Personality of the Year award? Only time will tell.

The remaining BBC Sports Personality Of The Year 2011 contenders are as follows (best prices correct at time of publication):

Luke Donald – 34.00 (Bet365)
Alistair Cook – 67.00 (Boylesports)
Amir Khan – 101.00 (Bet365, SportingBet, William Hill)
Dai Greene – 133.00 (Betfair)
Andy Murray – 190.00 (Betfair)
Andrew Strauss – 200.00 (Betfair)

The awards ceremony for the 2011 Sports Personality of the Year will take place in Salford, on Thursday December 22nd.