Sunday night’s Sports Personality of the Year Award on BBC was always going to Old Trafford for me, Ron

There was a tedious inevitability about David Beckham’s election as the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. The public phone poll was very close, so Steve Ryder said, but in the end it was the man who swerved England into the World Cup finals and out of a qualifying trip to Kiev that prevailed.

While disappointed, there is no surprise and certainly no shame involved in the outcome. Ellen’s achievements were trumpeted loudly enough and plenty front pages sported Ellen’s beamy grin when she arrived (second to Michel Desjoyeaux, let’s remember) in Les Sables at the end of the Vendée Globe.

Beckham, however, must have appeared on almost as many front pages as Liz Hurley, and considerably more back pages as one of the treasures of our national game. Despite England’s 35-year silverware crisis, publicity in that abundance, with the World Cup Finals round the corner, makes it all the more remarkable and highly creditable that Ellen, from the non-sexy sport of sailing, split England’s dynamic duo at all.

For Ellen to find herself on stage with Beckham, Owen and Sir Alec Ferguson pays a huge compliment to Ellen, Mark and the team, while underlining how parochial the Brits are in their appreciation of sporting endeavour. In France (currently World and European football champions) she’d have won hands down.

Ellen herself was delighted. “The sports awards ceremony was captivating and none of us really had any idea who was going to win the ultimate trophy, even if the bookies had tipped the footballers. In the end it was apparently a very close vote and I would just like to thank everyone throughout the country who supported me, not only in these awards but throughout the past few years. It’s been a great team effort.”

On David Beckham: “I had a nice chat with him, he was sincere and clearly interested in my own story. At the end of the day (football cliché proves contagious – Ed) what is refreshing in these situations is that regardless of what is written in the press, we are all normal people just living our dreams. David is no different in that respect.”

Today, Ellen and her family will burst with pride as they head to Buckingham Palace to collect Ellen’s MBE. Kingfisher will arrive in the UK shortly and, after some TLC, will take pride of place and the London Boat Show, opening 3 January 2002. After opening the show, Ellen will reveal her sponsorship and sailing plans for the next few years.