Andy Murray says he is too young to be knighted. But is 29 really too young for the world’s number one tennis star to be made Sir Andy Murray?
The bookmakers say he’s odds on.
Fresh from a year that has seen him claim his second Wimbledon title and end the season top of tennis’ ATP rankings, Andy Murray is rated at a meagre 1/3 to be knighted in the New Year’s Honour list by some leading bookmakers.
But the man himself says he is not yet old enough.
Asked about the prospect of becoming “Sir Andy”, he told national journalists: “I don’t know, I feel too young for something like that.”
Describing it as “the highest honour you can get in this country”, he added: “I am still young and there are still a lot of things that can go wrong. I could still mess up and make mistakes. Do stuff wrong.
“I am just trying to keep doing what I am doing, working hard, and achieving stuff.”
Murray, if knighted, would not be the youngest knight of the realm.
The Cabinet Office says it does not have a record of the youngest recipient of a British knighthood. However, some reports suggest it may be Shivaji VI, who was a Raja of Kolhapur, in India, from 1871 to 1883.
He was aged just 13.
Ellen MacArthur, who became the fastest person to sail solo around the world in 2005, is the youngest woman to receive a damehood. She was 28 – a year younger than Murray.
More recently, Sir Bradley Wiggins and fellow cyclist Sir Chris Hoy were both 32 when they were knighted.
Richard Caborn, the Labour minister for sport from 2001 to 2007, said if Murray’s nomination had been given to him during his time in office, he would have approved it without hesitation – saying age would not have even been a consideration.
The former MP for Sheffield Central said recipients “really had to excel” and reach the “pinnacle” of their sport to be recognised.
During his time in office, rowers Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, and ex-England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward were among those to be knighted. Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes and Paralympian Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson were recognised with damehoods.
All were older than Murray, but Mr Caborn says age did not ever come into his decisions.
“It is about acknowledging both his ability and what he has done for Great Britain in the world of sport,” he said.
“He has excelled beyond expectations to get to the pinnacle of one of the toughest games in the world.
“But it is not just about winning, it is about how he has won and the determination he has put in over the last few years. He is absolutely dedicated. I think that needs recognising.”
Who decides on knighthoods?
Anyone can nominate someone for an honour.
The nomination is then decided by an honours committee, which in Andy Murray’s case would be the sport committee.
Chaired by Lord Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the committee also includes former Paralympic athlete Baroness Grey-Thompson and Graham Taylor, the former England football manager.
Assuming the committee approves the nomination, it would then go before the main honours committee, which is made up of the chair from each of the sub-committees as well as the cabinet secretary, the permanent secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the chief of the defence staff.
Of course, the nominee can then always decline the award.
Government records show painter LS Lowry and sculptor Henry Moore both turned down knighthoods.
Source: Cabinet Office
‘A political imposition’
However, Sue Mott, a sports journalist and Murray’s biographer, said she believed the Scottish star “meant every word” about feeling too young for the honour.
“Knowing him as I do from when we wrote the book together, he hates fame and he hates fame for fame’s sake,” she said. “He hates the spotlight – unless he is on a tennis court.
“I think the whole rigmarole of being knighted and being called Sir Andy would appal him.
“I think when his career finishes and he retires to a Scottish mansion, he will know it will be given to him in affection.
“I actually agree with him and absolutely sympathise with him that he just wants to have fun – and he wouldn’t be able to have as much fun as ‘Sir Andy’.”
To not wait until he finishes tennis would be “a political imposition”, she added.
“I think if the authorities have got any sense at all, they would stop trying to curry favour at every moment and wait until his career is over.”
Andrew Castle, broadcaster, tennis commentator and ex-tennis professional, said that while he is in no doubt Murray will receive a knighthood at some point, it will not be what defines his career.
“I don’t think it matters at all to be honest,” he said.
“He will get one at one stage in his career.
“But that doesn’t make him a good person or a sporting warrior. It doesn’t justify his existence. His reward is where he is in the world – number one.”