Alan Hubbard

Democracy is a dirtied word in the United Kingdom these days. The Greeks may have invented it, but the British have sullied it thanks to the current shenanigans over another word someone must have dreamed up and is now regretting: Brexit.

What is going on now at Westminster defies all comprehension. The political pantomime season has come early.

Will the UK be in or out of the European Union on October 31? Who knows? What we do know is that democracy has become meaningless since the referendum over three years ago. I voted to Remain, though not with any great enthusiasm. The Brexiteers won by a slim, but nonetheless emphatic majority, a decision we accepted.

But too many of those in Parliament we elected to carry out the will of the people chose not to do so. They dillied and they dallied, they shillied and they shallied.

First, they obstinately refused to accept the result and now seem hell-bent on overturning it. What a shower. Even those nations where democracy can't be found in their dictionary are sniggering at us.

So, what has this got to do with sport, you may well ask? Quite a bit, actually. For what sort of example has this self-serving, political class set for the rest of society - and especially sport, where the maxim is to play the game. If our leaders don't obey the rules and accept a democratic verdict, then why should the rest of us?

One of the iconic moments of the sporting year - Ben Stokes at Headingley, delivering England the third Ashes test almost single-handedly ©Getty Images
One of the iconic moments of the sporting year - Ben Stokes at Headingley, delivering England the third Ashes test almost single-handedly ©Getty Images

Ok, so I know it is no longer a case of playing to the referee's whistle or that the umpire's decision is final now that VAR has descended on us, for better or worse. But it is significant that it is happening at the time of year when sporting polls are here - with fans given the opportunity to put pens to paper or push their computer buttons to nominate the outstanding moments and personalities of 2019.

X marks the SPOTY, you might say.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, or any other media poll, might be subject to the whims of the orchestrators (as seems to be happening with Brexit), but it does make you wonder how easy it must be to manipulate these things.

In the past there have been muttered rumours, though never proven, of a bit of vote-rigging here and there. If such a thing did happen, how would we know?

Millions of votes are miraculously counted within a few seconds, not only on SPOTY, but other popular contests like Strictly Come Dancing and Britain's Got Talent which, we are told, are verified by independent adjudicators who we never see or hear from.

No matter, on we go to December 15 when the main sporting referendum of the year will be televised live from Aberdeen, Scotland.

The only argument this time should be whether the trophy is held aloft by supreme cricket all-rounder Ben Stokes (odds-on favourite at 2-5) or the equally dynamic sprinter Dina Asher-Smith (5-1).

The British sporting public have always loved a bad lad made good, so I can see why Stokes is favourite, though my vote would go to the delightful Dina. But I could make a strong case for one of Britain's best, if somewhat unfashionable, fighters to get a foothold on the podium alongside them.

Pound for pound, Josh Warrington is British boxing's biggest entertainer ©Getty Images
Pound for pound, Josh Warrington is British boxing's biggest entertainer ©Getty Images

The electrifying performance by Josh Warrington recently confirmed my long-held view that he is British boxing's number one crowd-pleaser.

So much so that I believe he should be shortlisted for sport's most prestigious prize. Strangely snubbed in the British Boxing Board of Control's Fighter of the Year award, he deserves some recognition as he certainly possesses as good an engine as Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes, although petrolheads may demur.

Not just for the always exciting, front-foot manner with which he fights, but because he oozes what the award is supposed to be about: personality.

The 28-year-old Yorkshireman's popularity is not just measured by a packed house in his home-town, as he is to Leeds what Ricky Hatton was to Manchester, but also his good-natured support for charities and, in particular, our armed forces. A military band piped him into the ring a fortnight ago, returning the favour of his regular visits to Army bases to mingle with the troops.

Fittingly so, as the way he went about dismissing Sofiane Takoucht, the French challenger for his IBF world featherweight title, in under two rounds - his 30th successive victory - surely removes any lingering doubts about the efficacy of his own armoury. Relatively unsung he may be outside Leeds, but Josh is simply a joy to watch.

He may be one of the brainiest fighters around in all senses of the word, but boxers are quite often given quite short shrift in SPOTY. The last winner from the fight game was Joe Calzaghe 12 years ago. There have been only three others since the award was instituted in 1954: Lennox Lewis, Barry McGuigan and Henry Cooper, though Tyson Fury did get an honourable mention last year. Can anyone remember who the winner was? No? It was cyclist Geraint Thomas.

The SPOTY award was first handed out in 1954 and there have been 60 different winners, with Andy Murray the only person to win it on three occasions.

Alongside the main event, a special BBC Festival of Sport will take place in Aberdeen on December 13-14. The festival will offer local schoolchildren and members of the public the opportunity to try a variety of sporting activities, with BBC Sport talent on hand to offer tips and encouragement.

Director of BBC Sport, Barbara Slater, says: "It's been an extraordinary year of sport so far, with many incredible moments and surely more to come. I have no doubt Aberdeen will be an excellent host city to help us celebrate them." 

Laura Muir has established herself at the very top of women's athletics ©Getty Images
Laura Muir has established herself at the very top of women's athletics ©Getty Images

This is the first time Aberdeen will host the event. The city is known for its sporting heritage as the birthplace of Manchester United legend Denis Law and Open-winning golfer Paul Lawrie; it is also home to Aberdeen FC, the club where Sir Alex Ferguson first made his name as a manager with such extraordinary success.

Presenters Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan will take to the stage to celebrate a huge year of sport in front of an audience of 10,000, with millions more watching live on BBC One.

This year has already seen several ground-breaking sporting moments, including:

· England men's team winning the Cricket World Cup for the first time.

· The longest singles final in history at Wimbledon between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

· England football team reaching the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup.

· Tiger Woods achieving his fifth Masters title.

· Wales claiming a record-breaking fourth Grand Slam in the Six Nations.

· The England netball team winning bronze at the Netball World Cup.

· Liverpool lifting the Champions League for a sixth time.

· Manchester City winning the domestic treble.

· Alfie Hewett and Andy Lapthorne winning two US Open wheelchair tennis titles apiece, sealing both the singles and doubles crowns in their respective divisions.

· Laura Muir becoming the first athlete to achieve the double-double at the European Indoor Championships.

· Adam Peaty smashing his own 100m breaststroke world record to become the first man to go under 57 seconds.

· Europe winning the last three singles matches to seal a sensational Solheim Cup victory over the United States at Gleneagles.

All this, and the Rugby World Cup's final stages still to come.

When the votes are counted, I am sure it will all be quite legit and above board. But I just hope none of those mysterious independent adjudicators have political aspirations, as they would probably make a dog's Brexit of it!