FOR once the Beeb’s Sports Personality of the Year Award looks as though it might be a proper contest.

A dozen have been shortlisted for SPOTY with the predictable array of London Olympians and Paralympians facing the challenge of tennis champion Andy Murray and golf star Rory McIlroy.

For once if the award is for sporting achievement then everyone on the list has a claim.

However, this award is supposedly for the sporting ‘personality’ of the past 12 months and that arguably could narrow the field.

The merits of SPOTY does tend to cause controversy and last week – before any of the contenders were named – there was a debate on the Examiner Sports desk as to whether the BBC ought to just pull the plug on the programme.

In one camp (David Lockwood’s) was one who felt that as a sports review of the year it is of value, while in the anti-SPOTY lobby – the side I came down on – the argument ran that the fact the award had been handed out to undeserving recipients had totally undermined the whole event.

For a start David Beckham won it in 2001 and Ryan Giggs in 2009, the former was a popularity vote and the latter was for long service – neither award plainly had anything to do with any vestige of personality.

Okay I am an anti-Reds bigot, but if someone at Manchester United deserves the award it is Sir Alex Ferguson – it is the strength of his personality that has kept the Salford club at the top for so long.

But then two years ago the ‘voting campaign’ tactic took a grip and while AP McCoy was probably deserving as winner it did suggest that if a group of supporters had put their minds to it rap metal band Rage Against The Machine could have won it (although I think I might have mixed that up with a different vote?!?).

However, this year is looking good with the early favourite being cyclist Bradley Wiggins.

The Wigan RLFC fan’s claim is a strong one having doubled up by being the first Briton to win the Tour De France and then adding Olympic gold to his treasure trove.

But on the personality front he has been referred to as ‘a hermit’ in the media and his ‘modfather’ styling would be more authentic if he either raced Vespas or the racing bike on which he won the Tour had multiple headlights and been festooned with rear view mirrors.

Admittedly Andy Murray has also combined Olympic gold with a first Grand Slam success on the tennis tour.

However, the Scot still seems to be struggling to shrug off his taciturn image despite this summer’s tears at Wimbledon.

Last year the big SPOTY controversy was that no women were in the running for the award and as the last female to take the trophy was Zara Phillips in 2006 (possibly on her Gran’s say so) maybe the women will win through.

Paralympic champions cyclist Sarah Storey and swimmer Ellie Simmonds certainly stole a lot of hearts in London, and given her genuine personality Yorkshire lass Jess Ennis ought to have a real chance.