Alan Hubbard

The line between sport and showbiz grows thinner by the day to the point of obliteration.

Watching the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards at the weekend was akin to being transported to Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

High-kicking dancing girls, pop groups, steel drums, big bands and a new rendition of  Three Lions with its key lyric "Football’s Coming Home" (although actually it didn't quite) meant the razzmatazz which preceded the main event of the evening, the various sports awards, was worthy of an Olympic Opening Ceremony. And it probably cost us taxpayers almost as much.

No matter. Anyone who is - or even was - anyone in sport seemed to be among the 10,000 booted and suited thronging the Birmingham Arena.

Eventually we learned that despite being one of the most drugs-ridden sports, cycling again provided the winner in the thankfully untainted Tour de France victor Geraint Thomas. He seems a very decent chap and joins a roll of honour that includes Bobby Moore, Ian Botham, Daley Thompson, David Beckham, Paula Radcliffe and Andy Murray.

While full viewers' voting figures were not released it is understood the 32-year-old was a fairly clear winner in front of five-time world Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton. England football captain and World Cup golden boot winner Harry Kane just edged out record-breaking sprinter Dina Asher-Smith in third.

The bright and bubbly Dina would have been my choice. She really oozes personality which supposedly it is as much about as the winning.

Cricketer James Anderson and double Winter Olympic gold medallist Lizzy Yarnold completed the shortlist of six contenders, with heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury and snooker star Ronnie O'Sullivan among those to miss out.

Geraint Thomas won the Sports Personality of the Year award for 2018 ©Getty Images
Geraint Thomas won the Sports Personality of the Year award for 2018 ©Getty Images

Both became contenders late in the year and current boxing and snooker world champions Anthony Joshua and Mark Williams surely would have a case to be included.

Thomas, who was presented with his award by 2017 winner Mo Farah, is the first Welshman to win since footballer Ryan Giggs in 2009.

He is the fourth cycling victor in the last decade following Sir Chris Hoy in 2008, Mark Cavendish in 2011 and Sir Bradley Wiggins a year later.

The shortlist, decided by an expert panel, was announced during the show for the first time, rather than a few weeks in advance.

Bookmakers made Kane favourite - in front of Thomas and Hamilton - after he won the golden boot for top scorer as England reached the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 28 years.

Former world heavyweight champion Fury was fourth favourite following that drama-packed draw against Deontay Wilder, and O'Sullivan featured next in the betting after reaching a record 19 triple crown titles.

Fury, the 30-year-old self-styled Gypsy King, not so long ago the bête noire of boxing, emerged as a hero and role model after prising himself up off the floor to be given a scandalously dodgy draw with World Boxing Council (WBC) champion Wilder in the United States earlier this month.

While not in the final shortlist he proved to be the big hit of the night when in an interview with host Gary Lineker, he declined to discuss fighting Wilder again or the oddly absent Joshua, preferring to concentrate on fighting his own demons.

Talking about mental health and his own problems with drugs and depression, he said: "If I can speak about it - heavyweight champion, a six foot nine, 18 stone tough guy - anybody can. Anybody can get help, for sure."

Fury added that recovering from a last round knockdown against Wilder demonstrated his determination not to be beaten.

"Many men would have stayed down after being knocked down by Wilder but I wanted to show the world that anything was possible," he said.

"No matter what you've been through in your life and no matter what you're going through, you must always continue to get back up and keep going forward and fight back.

Tyson Fury used the occasion to discuss his mental health issues ©Getty Images
Tyson Fury used the occasion to discuss his mental health issues ©Getty Images

"We need to spread the word on mental health more in sport because a lot of people are still living in darkness and are too afraid to come out and speak about it publicly."

"I've got nothing to say about boxing," he added. "This year has been a fantastic year and I enjoyed every moment of it and I hope the fans enjoyed it as much as I did but I'm just going to go home and spend some time with family and have a great Christmas."

Fury repeated his claims that he should have won the fight against Wilder.

"It was a special moment in my career and my life," he said.

"Everybody knows what I've been through - two terrible years. This year I decided to get back to the top of heavyweight boxing and I sacrificed and dedicated my life to the sport and I should be the WBC heavyweight champion of the world and everybody knows it."

So the Beeb’'s annual big bash, all glitz and glamour and far removed from the blood, sweat and tears of sport itself, at least included a serious note on an evening full of sound and Fury.

That’s sportsbiz for you.