TO MARK THE 50th edition of BBC TV's flagship sports programme Sports Personality of the Year, which will be screened on December 30 next, BBC Books will publish a lavishly illustrated history by Steve Ryder, the co-presenter of the show since 1986 on November 13. It will be just in time for when interest gathers momentum as fans begin to vote for who will become the 50th winner of perhaps Britain's premier sporting honour. The book celebrates not only the winning sportsmen and women but also the runners-up, the making of the programme and the backroom staff as well as the many amusing happenings over the years. This famous award has been presented on 49 star-studded occasions but when Sports Personality of the Year was first screened in 1954 there were probably less than a million viewers who watched Peter Dimmock - who helped select some of the photographs in the book - hand the trophy to the late Chris Chataway. From the start, this hugely popular programme has generated congtroversy - many people believed that the first award should have gone to Roger Bannister who the previous year had run the first mile in fractionally under four minutes. "I've devoted a whole chapter to votes and voting," said Ryder. "In the 1950s you had to buy a Radio Times to cut out the coupon before posting your vote to the BBC. Enthusiasts bought extra copies of RT and spent money on envelopes and stamps to give their favourite a chance although it has always been the BBC that has been accused of attempting to manipulate the result! Nowadays, with email,it's easier for devotees to try and 'fix' things but it's clear when there's unwarranted support for someone." The book will be promoted on-air in late autumn during a TV documentary series on the history of the programme.