After last year’s break from the norm when the shortlist was named on SPOTY night, the BBC reverted to its traditional reveal three weeks out from the show. This took me by surprise, as did the inclusion of Raheem Sterling (22/1) and Alun Wyn Jones (22/1), alongside the expected names of Ben Stokes (1/6 fav), Dina Asher-Smith (12/1), Lewis Hamilton (25/1) and Katarina Johnson-Thompson (80/1). Details of their achievements this year are on the BBC site. The show is on the evening of Sunday 15 December.
The write-up for Sterling noted that, ‘..it is his rise to become an unofficial spokesman for a generation of footballers on race, class, society and the media that has people asking whether Sterling is the most important sportsperson in Britain right now’. This showed that it was the mix of social and sporting achievement that secured his nomination, a combination not normally seen in the shortlist for the main award. When including non-sporting factors though it does complicate the selection process. For example, it could be argued, particularly if the panel was keen to continue to promote female sports, that Lucy Bronze may have deserved a place on the shortlist based on sporting achievement (Champions League winner, Silver Ball in the world cup, 2nd in Ballon D’or).
Of course the key question for betting purposes is how well will Sterling poll. At this stage there doesn’t look to be too much evidence that his important stance against racism will translate into a flood of votes. It may be that support gathers momentum in the days leading up to the show and will be something to keep an eye on.
Alun Wyn Jones was the other surprise and the Welsh vote always has to be respected. There is a long tradition of the Welsh getting behind their heroes – last year Geraint Thomas added to relatively recent SPOTYs Joe Calzaghe and Ryan Giggs. And of a similar profile to Wyn Jones was Leigh Halfpenny, runner-up to Andy Murray in 2013 at a big price. The power of this vote could be underestimated and kick in on the night, although there may be a limit to high it could go – it’s worth bearing in mind that Halfpenny’s 66,000 votes is below average for 2nd place.
Anyway.. Stokes looks nailed on. His two innings six weeks apart this summer to help England win the world cup and keep the Ashes alive at Headlingley will always be remembered. Both were absorbing occasions where the stakes couldn’t have been higher. I’ve not seen sporting drama quite like it.
Unfortunately for bettors it leaves the market somewhat dead compared to other years. Followers of the advice on this site have a minor interest in Stokes at 50/1 pre-world cup final so are positioned for a small profit on the year.
Trying to predict who will finish second and third is something I’m not finding straight-forward and have low confidence in. Asher-Smith with her gold and two silvers at the world championships is ahead of Johnson-Thompson that is for sure. But it is difficult to guess just how much better she will poll compared to last year’s 4th behind Thomas, Hamilton and Harry Kane. Her profile is increasing year on year so she should do fairly well.
While he offers nothing new, and it bores me to say it, with doubts about how all will fare bar Stokes, it may be worth a small bet on Hamilton in the ‘without Stokes’ and top 3 markets. He always has a solid base of support and it may be enough. He also finished 2nd behind Stokes in the Sports Journalism Awards.
The World Sport Star (WSS) and Greatest Sporting Moment (GSM) shortlists have also been announced. There is only a small window until 9am Friday 6 December to vote for these (online, one vote per person, from UK only). I was holding out for more bookies to price these up like last year but unfortunately it seems Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power are on their own (these markets should close when the vote closes on the 6th). The fancy prices have gone but the 3/1 for Eliud Kipchoge may still represent some value given the uniqueness of his success in going under 2 hours for the marathon, albeit in contrived circumstances with the assistance of pacemakers.
GSM looks to be between the two cricket contenders. A world cup win for England in a major sport is a rarity so looks very strong. A poll in a tweet from @englandcricket showed 69% choosing the world cup final over 31% for Headingley.
* 0.25 pt win Lewis Hamilton without Stokes 5/1 Bet365 9/2 Ladbrokes / Coral
* 0.5 pt win Lewis Hamilton top 3 11/8 Bet365 6/5 Sky Bet
* 1 pt win Eliud Kipchoge World Sport Star 3/1 Betfair Sportsbook / Paddy Power
* 2.5 pt win Joss Buttler breaks the stumps to seal world cup victory 8/11 Betfair Sportsbook / Paddy Power
I’ll post again if any further markets or value appear between now and the 15th. If you’ve any thoughts, particularly on that battle for 2nd and 3rd, please feel free to comment.