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Sports Personality of the Year 2015: The contenders

Andy Murray is in the running in 2015 Photo: PA

Twelve of the biggest names in sport will go head to head for the coveted BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2015 award tonight.

It is the first time the awards, being hosted by Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan, have been staged in Northern Ireland.

The inclusion on the shortlist of Tyson Fury has sparked a major outcry from gay and equal rights campaigners following controversial comments made by the world heavyweight champion boxer.

The star-studded live event will take place at the SSE Arena in Belfast.

The contenders:

Jessica Ennis-Hill

Jessica Ennis-Hill Credit: PA

Just thirteen months after giving birth to her first child, heptathlete Ennis-Hill won her second world title in Beijing in August. After claiming her fourth major outdoor gold medal, she was shortlisted for the IAAF Athlete of the Year award.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray Credit: PA

Andy Murray helped make history by guiding Great Britain to their first Davis Cup victory for almost 80 years - winning all eight of his singles matches along the way - and ended the 2015 season as the world no.2 for the first time in his career. The imperious Novak Djokovic, however, would prove to be Murray's biggest obstacle in his hunt for a third Grand Slam title.

Greg Rutherford

Greg Rutherford Credit: PA

Greg Rutherford once again proved he is the man for the big occasion, saving his best-ever major championship jump of 8.41 metres to take the gold medal at the World Championships in Beijing. Rutherford became the first British athlete ever to hold all available outdoor titles - National, Olympic, World, European, Commonwealth and Diamond League - at the same time.

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton Credit: PA

The reigning Sports Personality of the Year now has three Formula One world titles to his name after a magnificent performance throughout 2015. The 30-year-old has a very good chance of becoming the first ever back-to-back winner of the SPOTY award, and the third F1 driver to claim the coveted title twice.

Tyson Fury

Tyson Fury Credit: PA

Aiming to join the likes of Barry McGuigan, Lennox Lewis, Joe Calzaghe and Henry Cooper as a SPOTY-winning boxer is world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. The 27-year-old burst on to the global stage with a comprehensive dismantling of Wladimir Klitschko in November, but his outspoken views haven't gone unnoticed either.

Lizzie Armitstead

Lizzie Armitstead Credit: PA

In a golden era for British cycling, Armitstead became only the sixth Briton to win a world road race title after a sensational sprint finish, and add to her second successive UCI Women's Road World Cup title to cap a golden 2015. An outside bet, perhaps, but Armitstead knows how to claw her way back through a packed field.

Mo Farah

Mo Farah Credit: PA

The terrifyingly consistent Farah completed a superb World Championship double in the 5,000m and 10,000m to bring his total of global titles to seven. Farah doesn't seem to be slowing down, either - he broke the 14-year-old European half-marathon record back in March. He finished third in the SPOTY vote back in 2011.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome Credit: PA

Froome secured his second Tour de France title in style in 2015 and, as cycling continues to wrestle with its doping demons, the 30-year-old remains an outspoken supporter of efforts to clean up the sport. Three cyclists have won the SPOTY award in the last seven years, suggesting that cycling has never been so close to the voting public's heart.

Lucy Bronze

Lucy Bronze Credit: PA

2015 was a huge year for women's football in England, as the national team reached the World Cup semi-finals for the first time. Defender Bronze popped up in the knockout stages with winning goals against Norway and Canada as the Lionesses matched the best World Cup performance by an England team since 1966.

Adam Peaty

Adam Peaty Credit: PA

50m and 100m breaststroke world record holder Peaty has challenged the swimming stranglehold of the USA and Australia in 2015. The 20 year old claimed three gold medals at the World Championships - there is almost certainly more to come.

Max Whitlock

Max Whitlock Credit: PA

In another sport that is quickly capturing the public imagination - thanks mainly to British success - Whitlock became the first Briton to claim world championship gold in Glasgow. No gymnast has ever claimed the SPOTY award - Beth Tweddle finished third in 2006.

Kevin Sinfield

Kevin Sinfield Credit: PA

Sinfield is one of the defining characters in modern rugby league. After 18 superb years with Leeds, he crowned his career the Treble in 2015. So often overshadowed by rugby union, this is deserved and overdue recognition for the 13-man code.

Last year the award was won by Lewis Hamilton, with golfer Rory McIlroy runner up and athlete Jo Pavey in third place.