Voting for non-teams in SJA awards just isn’t cricket

WHO WILL GET YOUR VOTE? When is a “team” not a team? When they don’t compete together, says STEVEN DOWNES, as he makes the case for backing England’s Ashes-defending cricketers

Appealling for your vote: Swann and his England team mates

Look. It’s not up to me who you vote for. But I do reckon that if you are trying to choose the SJA Team of the Year, you could actually choose a genuine team.

Voting for the 2010 SJA British Sports Awards has been open for about a month now, and after some outstanding sporting action this year, there’s clearly some strongly favoured candidates in the men’s and women’s ballots.

And there are three or four very strong cases to be made for teams, too.

By “team”, I mean a group of sportspeople who actually combine together and play in the same contest together, for the same prize.

This ought to exclude amorphous groupings like the British athletics “team” that won a record number of medals at the European championships in Barcelona in the summer, or their counterparts from British swimming who also enjoyed terrific success in Budapest at their Europeans. Cycling? Nope. Rowing? No, not a team, either.

Of course, if the women’s 4×400 metres relay team had won gold, perhaps breaking the world record, then that would have been well worth considering voting for, just as the then SWA did back in 1970 when it gave its first Team of the Year award to a fantastic 4×800 metres relay team that included Lillian Board. It was a team in the truest sense, that competed together.

Likewise, if and when a men’s or women’s 4×100 metres medley relay team wins Olympic gold, or the men’s or women’s eight prevails at a global regatta, or when there’s four cyclists who rule the world in the team pursuit, then they should get a strong look-in for the Team of the Year. Just as the coxless four did in 1998 and 2000. For those really are teams.

But  a disparate grouping of athletes, swimmers or oarsfolk, who all happen to wear the same uniform, and travel on a plane together to get to a sports event where they then all compete separately in their own events, does not constitute a team. Not in my book, any how.

SO HAVING discounted all those, who do I think is deserving of the SJA’s Team of the Year Award this year?

Certainly, I was very impressed by the England women who got so close to winning their Rugby World Cup.

The Ryder Cup always stretches the definitions of our British team award once every two years, but Monty’s men provided four days of compelling and inspiring sporting achievement.

Yet all of that pales when compared to the year-long, World Cup-winning excellence of the England cricket team, unbeaten in six series and Twenty20 world champions.

So, as Andrew Strauss’s men land in Australia to face the biggest challenge in world cricket over the coming months, they can arrive there safe in the knowledge that my vote, at least, is for the England men’s cricket team.


Check out our experts’ views here:

Sportsman of the Year

Cricketer Graeme Swann

Jump jockey AP McCoy

Golfer Graeme McDowell

Boxer David Haye

Sportswoman of the Year

Swimmer Fran Halsall

Olympic slider Amy Williams

Team of the Year

Voting for the SJA’s annual British Sports Awards is now open. Only SJA members may vote, and they are allowed to vote only once, when they must choose their top three choice for Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of the Year.

Deadline for voting is November 9.

Tickets to attend the SJA British Sports Awards on December 8 are also now on sale.