I've been asked to be a judge of Sports Personality of the Year, and this afternoon the 12 judges are meeting at the BBC to discuss who should be on the short-list. We were sent a huge long list of all possible contenders weeks ago, and been told to add any others onto it so that by the time we meet, we have a faily exhaustive list of all possibilities. There are hundreds of possible names - all of them hugely deserving having had wildly successful years. The problem is that we have to get the list down to 10. As we all sit and look at one another, it's hard to imagine how on earth we're going to do it.
The panel is a mixture of national newspaper sports editors (three of us), previous winners, leading sports people and broadcasters. There's a 50:50 split between men and women, and they've given thought to various areas of expertise, so that lively debate can ensue between the judges.
The first thing we do is to go through the list and create a list of probables, so the names are called out, and if any one of the judges thinks that person should be on the shortlist, they are put onto the probables - sportspeople are only dismissed if not one of the judges thinks that person should be on the shortlist. By the end of the process, we still have a fairly long list, but much shorter than the list we started out with.
Then the debating starts, and that's when you realise how tough this all is...how do you compare the exploits of Joe Root in the Ashes series or Leigh Halfpenny in the Lions series, with Andy Murray winnign Wimbledon, or Mo Farrah at the World Championships? The truth, ofcourse, is that the victories cannot really be compared. Being the player of the series on a victorious Lions tour is to be the best your sport can ask of you. Winning Wimbledon is the best a sport can ask of you. All of their achievements are brilliant and deserve an award. Many, many people who did not make the final shortlist missed out by the tinniest margin.
In the end, the BBC's advice was to make decisions about who had made the biggest impact in the year - which victory resonnated more than others, and had the greatest impact on sports fans. So, that's what we did - we took lots and lots of hugley successful sportspeople and tried to pick the 10 whose victories made the biggest impact.
I think we did well. I know a lot of people will disagree, but it's not a science and there is no right or wrong. People said there should have been more women on the shortlist, but which men would you miss off it to put another woman on? We missed lots of brilliant sportsmen off the list as well, because we could only select 10.
It was a fascinating process in which you found yourself wondering what makes brilliance, how sporting achievements compare and what makes an impact on the sports world. Andy Murray was the eventual winner - clearly his achievement had huge impact because it had been so long since a British man won Wimbledon. If he wins again next year, will he win SPOTY again? I guess that depends a lot on what else happens in the sporting world, but it seems unlikely - the shock, joy and delight of his victory resonated because opf its rarety.
The whole thing was fun to do & challenging to get right. I was very flattered to be asked.