Alan Hubbard ©ITG

The look on Sir Mo Farah’s face said it all. Before unabashed delight took over his countenance was one of sheer disbelief.

Like just about everyone else on Sunday (December 17) night, not least the bookies who had made him a 50-1 outsider, he could not comprehend that he had heard Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish announce that he had been voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

A shock result, certainly, especially as he had beaten the leading contender, the world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua (at one stage a 1-12 on favourite but pushed down somewhat ignominiously into fourth place), and other luminaries including Lewis Hamilton and Chris Froome.

The cynics are already in full cry, hinting it was a fix to compensate for the years when Farah, perhaps more deserving than in 2017, seemed to be overlooked or even snubbed.

Farah obviously did not think he was going to win, otherwise he surely would have bothered to make the trip to Liverpool rather than watching via video link in London.

But hang on a Mo, so to speak. Was it really such a surprise? Could there be a more logical explanation?

Four-time Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah has had better years but nevertheless, here he does his trademark 'mobot' after receiving his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace last month ©Getty Images
Four-time Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah has had better years but nevertheless, here he does his trademark 'mobot' after receiving his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace last month ©Getty Images

The clue is in the letters BBC. Farah’s accomplishments, especially in the World Athletics Championships, were covered only by the Beeb cameras and the award is in the Corporation's name, even though the public vote for it. And they, of course, are in the main BBC viewers.

Joshua may well have been the bookies nomination but he hasn’t appeared in action on the BBC since the 2012 Olympic Games.

All of his professional contests have been screened exclusively by Sky.

Of course, we have to take the ballot at face value. We are assured it is independently audited. But nonetheless Farah’s triumph left many puzzled.

As I said, he has had better years, and inevitably doubts lingered over him because of his association with American coach Alberto Salazar who is the subject of a doping investigation. But good luck to him.

Perhaps even more surprising was the elevation into second place of one Jonathan Rea. Who? Apparently he spends most of his time riding motorcycles around Northern Ireland and has won three successive world titles.

1991 was a dark year for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award... just ask Bob Nudd and his army of supporters ©BobNudd.com
1991 was a dark year for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award... just ask Bob Nudd and his army of supporters ©BobNudd.com

There can be little doubt that motor biking enthusiasts, with the encouragement of Motor Cycle News, voted for him en-bloc, just as fishermen did via Angling Times in 1991 when Bob Nudd, the greatest angler of all time, received the most votes. But the Beeb then claimed to have found a rule which disqualified all the ballots cast in this manner.

As it has been pointed out, had they black-balled Rea the way they did Nudd, then Joshua would have crept up to third behind Paralympian Jonnie Peacock.

Now here’s another funny thing. Was Peacock placed so highly not because of his outstanding track achievements but because of the popularity he gained when competing brilliantly in Strictly Come Dancing, another event shown on the BBC? The final even on Saturday (December 17) even attracted a higher audience than SPOTY.

You cannot begrudge the charismatic Peacock his third place. He is a phenomenal competitor and his popularity is indicative of the rise of Para-sport in public perception.

Before London 2012 less than one per cent of the British population could name a Paralympian. On Sunday Peacock collected over 73,000 votes, just 10,000 fewer than Farah, though only 18 more than Joshua.

For the record, Farah’s 83,524 votes were just 3,000 more than Rea’s.

Personally I would have liked to see the fifth-placed world record breaking swimmer Adam Peaty second and Joshua first, while Lewis Hamilton’s sixth place reflects the fact that outside of the petrolhead brigade he lacks popular appeal.

Superbike world champion Jonathan Rea. Who? Rea came a surprise second in the BBC poll and it wasn't his only success this year as he poses after being presented with an MBE by the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace last month ©Getty Images
Superbike world champion Jonathan Rea. Who? Rea came a surprise second in the BBC poll and it wasn't his only success this year as he poses after being presented with an MBE by the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace last month ©Getty Images

So, apparently, does Chris Froome. Only a couple of weeks before he had been declared Britain’s Sportsman of the Year in the annual Sports Journalists Association poll, ahead of Joshua and Peaty. Farah wasn’t in the top three. 

Now here was Froome in SPOTY’s seventh place. What a difference a positive drugs test makes, eh?

Surely this can be the only reason for such a lowly ranking for the four times Tour de France winner and cyclist supreme.

Four days before it had been announced that Froome had an adverse analytical finding from the 18th stage of the  Vuelta a Espana more than three months ago.

This showed he had twice the permitted level of an asthma medication called Salbutamol which above a certain level can be performance enhancing.

Amazing, isn’t it, just how many sportsmen and women suffer from asthma these days. Or is this just the cynic in me coming out again?

Naturally Froome rebuts any wrongdoing, claiming he took only the allowed amount of puffs to keep his asthmatic airways open.

Anthony Joshua should have walked off with the award. The bookies thought so... and I agreed wholeheartedly with them ©Getty Images
Anthony Joshua should have walked off with the award. The bookies thought so... and I agreed wholeheartedly with them ©Getty Images

He still has to explain how 100 per cent more than is permitted got into his system and if he fails to do so satisfactorily he will be banned, likeso many fellow pedallers have been before.

Yet Froome was the one cyclist we all believed was squeaky clean. Maybe he still is.

But the fog of suspicion descends even more densely over a sport which can no longer be trusted.

This year Britain’s cycling flagship Team Sky have squirmed, wriggled and obfuscated under assorted innuendo.

We still do not know what was in the mysterious jiffy bag sent to Sir Bradley Wiggins, and doubtless we never shall.

And as for Froome, well I am reminded of the comment made by Sebastian Coe some years back during the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, when we heard that athlete Diane Modahl had tested positive (she was later cleared).

Seb sighed: "If Diane Modahl is a drugs cheat then there is no hope for athletics."

The same must be said of cycling.