LEEDS RUGBY hero Kevin Sinfield stands a great chance of claiming the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award but only if the Rhinos’ dedicated fanbase really mobilises behind their legendary former captain, an expert stat-cruncher said.
If just 15 per cent of the television audience for the Challenge Cup final voted once each for Sinfield, who bowed out of the game after leading his team to glory in this year’s cup final, it could be enough to clinch him the prize, according to Clive Lewis, a fellow of the Institute of Actuaries.
Mr Lewis, who is an expert in statistics and demographics, has followed the BBC award and its demographic voting patterns for last 10 years.
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He believes Sinfield’s inclusion on the shortlist - a first for any rugby league player since the competition’s inception in 1954, even if he has now switched codes to rugby union at the age of 35 - represents the sport of rugby league with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a winner of the award.
Based on past experience, Mr Lewis thinks 250,000 public votes could be enough to win the title this time around.
“I think it works in his favour that Captain Kev has made the shortlist in such a competitive year, and a concerted campaign in the Yorkshire region and within rugby league circles could secure him victory,” he said.
That two of 12 shortlisted athletes - tennis star Andy Murray and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton - have already won it in previous years, is a further boost to the other contenders, Mr Lewis said.
Rhinos’ chief executive Gary Hetherington said head coach Brian McDermott and the Rhinos squad will accompany Sinfield at the televised awards night in Belfast.
Mr Hetherington said: “We are delighted for Kevin and the sport of rugby league as a whole that we have been recognised with Kevin’s nomination for the Sports Personality of the Year.
“Kevin epitomises everything that is great about our game; his honesty, integrity and professionalism are second to none and I can think of no better candidate to represent the sport.”
But it will be no easy ride for Sinfield, 35, who now plays for Yorkshire Carnegie after leading the Rhinos to a historic treble.
Two other Yorkshire favourites are sure to attract votes with Sheffield’s world heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill and Otley’s cycling superstar Lizzie Armitstead, 26, who has enjoyed the best season of her career, among the other names shortlisted.
Armitstead won the British National Road Race Championships as well as the UCI Women’s Road World Cup to top the world rankings this year. Ennis-Hill, 29, returned after giving birth to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics and win Gold at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing.
Phone and online voting for the winner opens on awards night on December 20.