Olympics Debrief

Once again the Olympics delivered. Despite all the challenges it provided its usual mix of outstanding performances, high drama and captivating stories. Team GB’s success, escalating as the Games went on, across a range of sports, added to the appeal for UK viewers. They finished 4th in the medal table, below their 2nd place in Rio but equal on 65 medals with London.

There was uncertainty about how Tokyo 2020 would come across without paying fans but there seemed to be enough spectators (athletes, staff and officials etc) at most events to create a decent enough atmosphere.

There were 22 Team GB golds but three in particular had the SPOTY markets scrambled. Breakfast time on the first Monday and Tom Daley finally wins a first gold at his 4th Olympics in the synchronised diving with Matty Lee – his price tumbling from 80/1 into around 4/1 (available at 160 and bigger on Betfair a couple of days before the opening ceremony).

After Dina Asher-Smith failed to qualify for the 100m final and withdrew from the 200m, Daley became the new SPOTY favourite.

The market settled down until Laura Kenny won gold with Katie Archibald in a dominant display in the madison on Friday. This, along with an earlier silver in the team pursuit, made Laura the most successful female Olympian (5 golds and 1 silver) and the first to win a gold at three successive Games. She traded as short as evens for a moment on Betfair and Daley was briefly forgotten.

Daley shored up his position by winning bronze in the individual event on Saturday morning. At this point Jason Kenny had drifted out to 100+ on Betfair. He had not been showing his usual big meeting form – he said he was ‘rubbish’ during the team sprint (where he won silver) and ‘struggling’ in the individual sprint (eliminated in the quarter-finals).

Suddenly, surprisingly Kenny then burst into life in the keirin final in the small hours of Sunday morning launching off the front to shock everyone. His gold was his 7th in total going clear of Sir Chris Hoy as Britain’s most successful Olympian of all-time. He became the new SPOTY favourite, also trading around evens on Betfair before settling around the 9/4 mark with the bookies.

The current market looks like this: J Kenny 9/4, Daley 9/4, Peaty 10/1, L Kenny 12/1, Lewis Hamilton 16/1, Mark Cavendish 16/1, Max Whitlock 20/1, Lauren Price 25/1.

The Kennys have made history and the titles of being the most successful male and female Olympians give them a certain gravitas. Jason’s overall record eclipses Laura’s so it seems right that he is shorter in the odds.

There are some warning signs around the likelihood of Jason winning SPOTY though. It has to be noted that in 2016 he won 3 golds, the most by a GB athlete in Rio, yet finished only 10th in SPOTY (Laura was 8th). He’s someone who generally doesn’t seek the limelight and is potentially up against not only Laura but also Cavendish who could still yet prove to be a bigger draw for cycling fans.

Could it be that the market is also overplaying the appeal of the historical feat to voters. After all in 2016 Jason had gone level with Hoy at the top of the all-time list. And Hoy himself in 2012 went clear at the top with his 6 golds in total yet only finished 7th that year (although he had already won it in 2008).

At this stage my feeling is the value lies in Daley. He has a long history with SPOTY being the only person to win Young SPOTY three times (voted for by a panel, rather than the public) in 2007, 2009 and 2010 (when he also finished 6th for the main award with 50k votes).

He has a huge following (2.3m Twitter followers), with a life story that is inspiring to many. The social media hits on his Olympics performances exceed his main SPOTY rivals and he was clear leader in a BBC poll of people’s favourite Tokyo 2020 gold.

His bronze medal in the individual event should secure him a place on the shortlist. Finally winning Olympic gold after all these years provides some of that novelty value that is key in SPOTY winners – he offers something different to his competitors that in some ways are hard to separate from each other. I’d expect a strong VT on the night, some knitting chat, and a desire among the BBC audience to vote for him.

In terms of the rest of the year we have the Paralympics to come which can always provide a good story or two. The world track cycling championships will also take place in October where it may be worth keeping an eye on the Kennys. There is the Ryder Cup too. Hamilton can never be entirely discounted if we wins a record 8th F1 title. But overall there may not be too much opportunity left for others to get involved.

* 3 pts win Tom Daley 9/4 Sky Bet, Betfred, Boyles, 5/2 Bet 365, 11/4 Coral / Ladbrokes

It will be interesting to see how long the shortlist will be this year. In 2016 it was 16 and 2012 it was 12. There is always the possibility of a big priced contender coming with a late charge.

I’d be interested to know if people think I’m being too positive on Daley’s chances as I know some are concerned he may not appeal to a typical SPOTY voter, please feel free to add a comment.

history in the making?

Up until a couple of weeks ago this had been the quietest of starts to a SPOTY year. England’s run to the Euros final and Mark Cavendish’s renaissance in the Tour de France have changed that.

Harry Kane (7/2) and Raheem Sterling (5/1) have replaced long term favourite Dina Asher-Smith (6/1) at the head of the market. Cavendish is in the slip stream at 8/1.

Since the start of the century British sportsmen and women have conquered many events that had previously seemed out of reach for many years. There has been: a two-time Wimbledon champion, multiple Tour de France titles, England cricket and rugby world cup wins, multiple Ashes victories, as well as Olympic gold rushes.

One prize for many though is valued above them all – a major international football championship. England are now marginal favourites (4/5) to beat Italy on Sunday night to win the Euros.

It would be the sporting highlight of the year leading to a likely domination of the awards on SPOTY night. When England won the rugby and cricket world cups it led to clear cut wins in the main award for Jonny Wilkinson and Ben Stokes.

The tricky part is pinpointing who such an individual would be if England were to win. Kane and Sterling have stolen the headlines throughout the tournament and are the most likely to impress on the night.

Kane is on 4 goals, one behind Ronaldo and Schick, so could finish as top scorer. Due to the tie-break rules he would need a goal and two assists to beat Ronaldo to the golden boot. Sterling is on 3 goals.

Sterling is 7/4 favourite to be voted by a panel as best player of the tournament . Kane is 7/2. It is this difference, plus a sense that there is more of story with Sterling – with him growing up in the shadows of Wembley etc – that makes him the more appealing option at the odds.

A European Championship winner who was player of the tournament would be a big vote winner on SPOTY night. Sterling also won the league with Man City which is a small bonus for him too in any end of year write-up.

It’s hard to be too confident – all sorts of drama could yet unfold – but overall he’s probably the most sensible pick as it stands, with Kane also worth a saver in case he denies Sterling player of the tournament.

But there remains a fair chance that England could fall at the final hurdle. Could Kane or Sterling then still win SPOTY? It would seem much more difficult.

Cavendish would then become a very interesting contender if he can level or beat the Tour de France all time stage win record of 34 held by Belgium legend Eddy Merckx. He’s currently on 33 and should have three more sprinting opportunities during the last 10 days of the Tour (assuming he can get through the tough Pyrenees mountain stages in good form). This is a record that has stood since 1975 and has long been considered near unbeatable.

Stage 13 is currently in progress (Friday afternoon) where it’s looking like a sprint finish sometime between 4 and 5pm – so there could be a real chance to level the record today. If he was to do so, his current SPOTY price would disappear.

There is also the last stage on 18 July, finishing on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, that looks suitable for a win. Cavendish has already won there 4 times and has the services of his Quick Step team’s lead out train who would be looking to deliver him to the line in similar style to his 3rd win in this year’s edition:

The Manx missile is a previous SPOTY winner in 2011 when he won the green jersey in the Tour and the world championship. Cyclists have an exceptional SPOTY record in recent times taking the main award 4 times in the last 13 years.

He remains a very popular character, his late call up and comeback this year adding to the appeal after battling Epstein-Barr virus and depression. He had long been written off by most as never to add to his last Tour stage win in 2016.

The complicating factor to all of this is the Olympics coming up in Tokyo – the opening ceremony is on 23 July. A classic SPOTY stat is that in any Olympic year from 2000 the SPOTY winner has won at least one Olympic gold (Redgrave, Holmes, Hoy, Wiggins, Murray).

Other factors have to be taken into account though in the assessment, including the strength of the opposition. There is also some doubt as to whether these Games will capture the public imagination as much as normal with them being played out without fans.

Asher-Smith would be a worthy contender if she could win gold in one or both of the 100m or 200m. She received a boost with the withdrawal of Sha’Carri Richardson in the 100m but still has tough competition in the form of Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah. In the 200m American Gabby Thomas has been setting very quick times. DAS is 4/1 joint second favourite in it with Sky Bet.

Laura Kenny (20/1) is another obvious candidate. She has a chance of three golds in the velodrome. Such a haul would take her to 7 in her career and top all-time above Hoy on 6 and also her husband Jason (depending on if he can add to his 6 golds). This could be appealing to voters. The question would be who might win in a head-to-head with Cavendish.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson (20/1) in the heptathlon is another to keep an eye on although is coming back from injury.

The Olympics, and potentially Paralympics that follow, can also throw up more left-field contenders. As ever they will be worth carefully monitoring.

Overall, at this stage though, I think it’s worth some small bets on the non-Olympians given the history that could be made over the coming days.

* 0.75 pt win Raheem Sterling 5/1 Bet 365, William Hill (6/1 Betfred)

* 0.75 pt win Harry Kane 7/2 William Hill (4/1 Sky Bet, 888 Sport)

* 1 pt win Mark Cavendish 8/1 Coral / Ladbrokes 7/1 William Hill, Bet 365

SPOTY 2020 review

1 Lewis Hamilton 2 Jordan Henderson 3 Hollie Doyle

While it wasn’t a classic year of sporting action, this year’s SPOTY market was intriguing.

In the week leading up to the show a co-ordinated campaign for Doyle took off – she was backed all the way down from in the 20s to around 3.25 on Betfair by Friday evening. She gradually drifted out to around 4.5 to 5 by Sunday.

Then Sunday afternoon saw the start of the huge gamble on Henderson as #votehendo drowned out #votehollie on social media. Liverpool had won 7 nil the day before, their captain was on the score sheet and the Reds were in buoyant mood. Then just before the show started manager Jurgen Klopp put out a rallying cry through the LFC Twitter account – ‘vote Hendo’.

Henderson had a good segment in the broadcast and the support on twitter and in the markets snowballed.

Henderson’s price crashed from mid to high 20s a few hours before, all the way down to close to evens right alongside long time favourite Hamilton just before voting closed.

It wasn’t to be though with neither gamble successful as Hamilton fended them off. It’s boring, and he is far from universally liked, but in a way he was an impressive winner seeing off these big campaign challengers. In the end it may well have been the broader appeal of his achievements this year with more casual fans that powered him home, compared to his opponents.

Looking back at the Doyle gamble it is clear that the social media campaign was somewhat deceptive as to the likelihood of her hauling in the required votes to win. Her price, like with Rashford’s earlier in the year, fell in direct proportion to the Twitter chatter that peaked around Wednesday to Friday. But this support it turns out didn’t quite translate into enough votes as the bigger names took charge.

In terms of the site, it was a fun ride with the triple H threat of Ham, Hen and Hol all covered at bigger prices. It was only Ronnie O’Sullivan who disappointed of those tipped.

While voting figures are no longer released, my estimate would be that it was fairly close between the first two who were a well clear. Ronnie may not have been that far off the podium. Fury was largely forgotten from his number 1 slot with much made of the potential Anthony Joshua clash to come.

It was good to see Khabib Nurmagomedov collect the World Sport Star award which provided a nice 8/1 bonus for those able to get on.

The overall tally was a profit of 13 points with an ROI of 128% – the full results can be found here.

Happy Christmas all. Look forward to next year and hope the Olympics in particular can go ahead. Olympic years and SPOTY betting – a great combination.

SPOTY 2020 preview

The SPOTY 2020 show is this Sunday evening at 8pm on BBC1. The shortlist of six was announced two weeks ago. As ever most of the social media chat was about who missed out and who’s got or not got a personality etc etc.

Anyway all those on the list seem to have done alright this year so it seems fair enough to me. The key piece of news in the build up to the shortlist being revealed was that Marcus Rashford wouldn’t be included. He will instead be presented with a special award on the night for his work to help children in poverty.

For a long time Rashford was all the rage in the SPOTY markets, backed down to as low as 1.6 to win and lower in the top 3 market. But there was always the likelihood that his sporting achievements during the year wouldn’t be sufficient to make the cut.

Lewis Hamilton is the strong favourite at 2/7 . The good news for followers of the site is that Hamilton was advised in July at 14/1 (12/1 generally available). He equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 F1 titles and went past his grand prix victories tally.

Next is Ronnie O’Sullivan at 13/2 also previously advised, at a lower 5/1, just prior to his world championship win in August. Much of what was discussed previously about Hamilton and O’Sullivan still applies now.

Jordan Henderson (11/1) is a difficult one to gauge. Footballers have struggled to make much of an impression in recent years – Raheem Sterling was out of the top 3 last year and Harry Kane was third in 2018 despite winning the golden boot at the world cup. How well the Liverpool captain polls will depend on how motivated fans are to vote. A first title since 1990 may be enough reason but it’s tricky to tell. Could the news of the passing away of their much-liked manager Gerard Houllier provide an extra push?

Tyson Fury’s (16/1) win over Deontay Wilder in February seems a long time ago. He has also asked to be removed from the shortlist and for his fans not to vote for him. Today on ITV he said his lawyers had written to the BBC insisting he be removed. It seems the BBC are entitled to still run a poll with him in it if they want and have just confirmed he’ll remain in the line-up. He may not be given too much fanfare during the show and plenty made about how next year and a fight with Anthony Joshua is the real test. Fury does have a large passionate fan base though and can’t be ruled out completely. One recent bit of SPOTY form that may be worth noting is that he was beaten to best sporting moment by the England netball team in 2018. When considering boxing’s broad appeal the shock of AJ not making the podium when 1.01 to do so in Mo’s year of 2016 also still lingers.

The main campaign contender at this stage appears the female flat jockey Hollie Doyle (20/1). As is invariably the case with equine sports people they receive strong backing from those in their industry. In a year when voting numbers may be down, a top 3 finish is achievable.

Stuart Broad is the outsider at 200/1. This reflects recent cricket nominations failing to make much of an impression.

Overall it does look as though Hamilton is in a strong position. But it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see him toppled. The make up of the top 3 is a puzzle and not easy to pin down. All in the running have positives. The top three odds for O’Sullivan, Henderson, Doyle and Fury of 3/10, evens, 6/5 and 2/1 respectively reflect this competitiveness.

Given the good position on Hamilton and O’Sullivan it seems sensible to have a small bit of cover on Henderson in particular to win just in case. The campaign for Doyle, and her being the only female, makes a small top 3 bet worth an interest but not with too much confidence. Skybet has some forecast and tricast markets up for those wanting to throw a dart or two.

* 1pt Jordan Henderson 10/1 general

* 0.5pts Hollie Doyle top 3 6/5 Betfair Sportsbook/ Paddy Power

* 0.2pts Henderson-Hamilton-Doyle tricast 28/1 Skybet

The World Sport Star shortlist has also been announced and Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power have a market – details of the contenders can be found in the link. Voting, and likely the market, closes tomorrow (Tuesday 15 December) at midday, with the winner announced before the show. Only one internet vote can be made per person and it’s open to UK residents only. UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov has a huge following. The concern is that the UK-only criteria will be too much of a stumbling block. At the 8/1 available it’s a risk worth taking. LeBron James is the favourite at 11/8 but there may be some doubt about motivation/ ability to vote. Katie Taylor at 11/4 has the potential advantage of a higher proportion of her fans being UK residents and is worth a saver.

* 0.5pts Khabib Nurmagomedov 8/1 Betfair Sportsbook/ Paddy Power

* 0.25pts Katie Taylor 11/4 Betfair Sportsbook/ Paddy Power

I’ll add any further thoughts in the comments between now and Sunday if there are any developments or bits of value of note. Please also feel free to comment on how things may pan out.

The start of this year seemed very different with Dina Asher-Smith and Kane at top of the betting. Here’s a look at some of the lowest prices traded on Betfair in 2020: Rashford 1.6, Fury 1.7, Henderson 6.0, Asher-Smith 9.0, Dettori 12, Kane 12, Johnson-Thompson 18.5.

Let’s see how we go – a Hamilton, O’Sullivan or Henderson win should see a profit. It’s great that we’ve actually got a show to bet on. My guess for fun at the most likely top 3: Hamilton – O’Sullivan – Doyle.

Rocket Ron

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An incredible day at the world snooker championships ended yesterday evening with Ronnie O’Sullivan chinning Mark Selby on the line to win their semi final 17-16. He plays Kyren Wilson in the final starting today at 1.30 pm, where he is the 3/10 favourite.

Ronnie was trailing 16-14 but went on to rattle off three frames in a row in swashbuckling style.

He’s now got a great chance to win his sixth world title to go just one behind Stephen Hendry. In terms of career ranking titles he’d go one ahead of the Scot to a record 37.

The Rocket is a hugely popular character amongst snooker fans with his quickfire play and unusual brand of charisma.

He burst on the scene as a teenager in the 90s, instantly becoming a favourite, and to many he’s the greatest snooker player of all time.

But he’s never even made the SPOTY shortlist. Surely this would change with victory on Sunday (assuming SPOTY goes ahead), particularly in a year with limited sporting stories.

There would be strong motivation to vote for Ronnie amongst his army of fans (and potentially multiple times) with an element of wanting to reward him for his achievements in the sport throughout his career.

Followers of the site are already covered on Lewis Hamilton at bigger prices. With the potential for O’Sullivan to out poll him and go favourite, he should also be added to the book. A cheap cover can be made on Wilson to win the title.

* 2.5 pts Ronnie O’Sullivan 5/1 William Hill, Bet 365, Betfred

* 0.75 pts Kyren Wilson to win the world championship 13/5 Paddy Power, Betfred, Betway

Let’s hope SPOTY gets the green light this year. If it doesn’t go ahead all SPOTY stakes should be refunded.

the 2020 market leaders

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Here we are then. Sport is gradually coming back but we don’t know if SPOTY will go ahead this year. Back in May, BBC Sport said it will make a decision later in the summer. As the world comes round to a ‘new normal’, it may be that a SPOTY of some form does go ahead. Who knows when things will be fully like they were before and plenty of sport should hopefully have taken place by December, albeit without this year’s blockbuster events.

For the last few years SPOTY has taken place on the Sunday night after the Strictly final on the Saturday. With the latter now slated for 19 December it could be that any SPOTY is on the 20th. This is all just guess work.

Betting wise, if SPOTY 2020 doesn’t go ahead, all stakes should be refunded by bookies and the exchange markets voided. So we might as well have a look at the odds.

Tyson Fury remains a worthy favourite at 6/4 after he beat Deontay Wilder in February. The Gypsy King has never been more popular. Fury-Wilder III is lined up and there is talk this could land on Saturday 19 December. It’s hard to be confident with boxing scheduling at the best of times but that slot could be a sweet spot for SPOTY voting. The negatives for Fury are that these Wilder fights are nothing new and there is the ultimate showdown with Anthony Joshua due for 2021.

All the talk in the last month has been about Marcus Rashford (5/2, 2/1 general) and his campaign leading to a government u-turn on providing free school meals through the summer. Rashford has a huge following and, if he made the shortlist and the vote was tomorrow, he would likely win by some way. The criteria the panel use to decide who is on the shortlist is supposed to reflect UK sporting achievement, so there is a fair chance others would be ahead of him on this count. Man United have chances to win the FA Cup (9/2) and the Europa League (11/4) though. He has cut through more than any sportsperson this year and you can never rule out a panel wanting to include him. Is there be a fair chance he is acknowledged in the show away from the main award, especially if his club ends up trophy-less?

Jordan Henderson (10/1) is one footballer who should be ahead of Rashford on sporting achievement having captained Liverpool to their first title in 30 years. He’s around 11/4 to win PFA player of the year and also has a chance to win the football writers’ player of the year. But doubts remain in general about how well footballers poll on the night.

The Formula 1 season starts this weekend, with a rejigged schedule. At the moment only 8 races (the minimum number of races required for a season to be considered complete) have been announced, in a condensed run of races ending with the Italian grand prix on 6 September. F1 hopes to schedule more races (15-18 in total) and is confident of ending the season in Abu Dhabi. It currently aims for this to be in December.

Lewis Hamilton is the 4/7 favourite for the title. While it is unclear quite how the F1 season will end up looking, I think the SPOTY stalwart looks the best value (14/1, 12/1 general) at this stage. He has finished second the last two years, having beaten Dina Asher-Smith and Harry Kane, so remains popular. If he won the F1 title this year he would join Michael Schumacher as joint top all-time with seven in total.

A December end to the season could be good timing. Another potential positive for the Mercedes veteran is that he has been in the news speaking out for racial equality, setting up his commission, and that could continue to strike a chord.

Overall, with enough doubts about the rest of the field, and subject to caveats surrounding the unpredictability of the sporting schedule, the health of those involved and whether anyone actually cares about sport anymore, Hamilton’s price looks big enough to be a bet. For those wanting a bit of cover, his main F1 challengers can be backed for the title. The hope is that a Hamilton championship would see his SPOTY odds crash.

Other potential players to keep an eye on this year could be Ronnie O’Sullivan, Frankie Dettori and Chris Froome.

* 1pt Lewis Hamilton 14/1 Sky Bet, 12/1 William Hill, Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook

* 0.4pts Verstappen 4/1 general; 0.1 pts Bottas 9/1 Bet 365, Paddy Power; 0.1 pts Leclerc Bet 365 9/1, 15/2 Ladbrokes/ Coral; 0.1 pts Vettel Bet 365 18/1, 14/1 general all for the F1 title.

What do you reckon? Please feel free to comment if you’ve any thoughts on the year that may not be.

SPOTY 2019 preview

Stokesy

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’s 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 Jos 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.

 

 

 

 

the Root to SPOTY?

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England smashed the Aussies at Edgbaston yesterday in the semi-final of the cricket world cup. It’s been a slow burner of a tournament, not helped by its drawn-out format and it being live only on Sky. But now England head to Lord’s for the final on Sunday against New Zealand in swashbuckling form and as 1/3 (1.34 on Betfair) favourites.

Sky have agreed for the broadcast to be free-to-air on Channel 4 (More4 while the F1 is on). This will give it potential at least to be a national experience (there is serious viewing competition with Federer v Djokovic over at Wimbledon but many will keep an eye on both). Over the last few years it feels like cricket has lost a lot of its wide appeal. The exclusive Sky deal has been blamed but also the game is more fragmented now with T20 tournaments dominating players’ motivations due to the money on offer. For many fans the game as a whole has felt less captivating during this period of rapid change. A first England cricket world cup win can cut through to the mainstream once more.

There always scope for an upset but if England perform as they have in their last three games they should win. It would surely be the highlight of the sporting year.

It’s always tricky to know who to back SPOTY-wise in team sports and a match-winning performance in the final could be key – it could come from anyone in this team. The upcoming Ashes complicates things a little too and there’s a nagging doubt about what a series loss against Australia would do to SPOTY prices. But an England victory would keep cricket in the news all the way through to September. England are 10/11 (1.85) favourites. It seems best to focus on those who’ll be involved on Sunday and in the Ashes. Joe Root, the test captain, is the obvious one. He’s currently clear as England’s leading run scorer in the world cup. The market has picked him out as the most likely too. Jason Roy will probably be invited to open in the Ashes. With Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler they have the ability to cause carnage in the final and in the tests.

Jofra Archer is England’s leading wicket taker in the world cup and looks sure to make his test debut. Ben Stokes is always involved in the thick of the action whenever he plays and Chris Woakes has been in top form. These look to be the main players with Root most likely to be the face of the summer.

In terms of SPOTY positions it will be worth keeping an eye on key performances in the final, although prices could go quickly. The top of the SPOTY market looks there for the taking so it’s worth an interest at this stage in the hope England get over the line with the risk being the match winning performance comes from someone else. It’s might be worth a small cover on one-day captain Eoin Morgan even though he won’t play tests – Barry McGuigan will tell you the Irish can win SPOTY too -although I’d be surprised if he’d be shortlisted or poll above others.

* 1.5 pts win Joe Root 8/1 general

* 0.2 pts win on each of Jonny Bairstow 50/1 general; Eoin Morgan 20/1 Bet Victor, Unibet; Jos Buttler 50/1 Ladbrokes/Coral; Jason Roy 33/1 general; Jofra Archer 100/1 Sky Bet, 40/1 general; Ben Stokes 50/1 general (couldn’t see Woakes listed but is on Betfair)

* 2 pts lay England v New Zealand at 1.35 (liability 0.7 pts) on Betfair exchange as cover

Looking at the rest of the SPOTY market, Lewis Hamilton is cruising along and is set for a sixth world championship. But he always is vulnerable to a more unusual achievement. Dina Asher-Smith has been beaten twice recently in the 100m and it will be tough for her this year in the world championships. While Raheem Sterling has been in great form and a respected voice against racism, his sporting achievements might make it difficult to get on the shortlist.

Last year’s SPOTY winner Geraint Thomas is showing good form in the Tour De France and trades around evens to win it. Froome not making the shortlist after wining the Tour creates some doubt as to whether Thomas will be on it this year but he would likely trade a lot shorter than the current 16/1 if he won a second yellow jersey. He also has the world championships in September in Yorkshire where he’d have a good chance in the time trial event.

* 1 pt win Geraint Thomas 16/1 Ladbrokes/Coral, William Hill

(available to lay for Tour De France at around 2.24 on Betfair if wanting to cover)

 

SPOTY 2018 preview

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SPOTY season burst into life last week following Tyson Fury’s draw against Deontay Wilder and the announcement of the 2018 Greatest Sporting Moment (GSM) and World Sport Star (WSS) shortlists.

The fight has enthused boxing fans with many having Fury as the winner on points but it was his remarkable recovery in the final round that lit up social media:

There is an appealing comeback factor to the Gypsy King following all the problems he’s had and he appears to have won many sports fans and the media over.

The SPOTY panel apparently reconvened specially to add his 12th round revival to the GSM list. The key question is – is he on the shortlist for the main award? For the first time this will be revealed on the night, in the show itself.

He’s arguably had more impact on the public than anyone this year but for sporting achievement it must be doubtful as to whether he’s done enough – a draw is a draw. If the panel included him there’s a fair possibility he would win the big prize. This doesn’t seem desirable given that the heavyweight boxing division is on the cusp of some further blockbuster fights with both Anthony Joshua and Fury in striking distance of being undisputed champion. It would seem better from a SPOTY brand point of view to save the possibility of Fury winning SPOTY until later after a win.

It’s the inaugural GSM this year so we don’t really know much about what any nominations here can tell us about who’s on the shortlist for the main award. But I can’t help but think that adding Fury to the GSM list was the panel’s way of recognising him this year and that will be sufficient.

This hasn’t stopped a load of money wanting to back Fury on the exchange both to win (now around 9.6 on Betfair (went out to around 20-40 directly after the result of the fight was called)) and top 3 (4.0). There’s an entrenched battle between those who see him as the man to vote for and those who are sceptical he’ll make the cut. It may be that many casual punters are not fully aware of the shortlist element, with layers taking the risk that he’ll line up on the 16th.

With the Wilder bout fresh in the memory in it looks worth a bet for Fury at 3/1 to topple the England football team for the GSM (the full list is here). Their world cup penalty shootout win against Colombia is favourite at around evens. While it was a stand out moment this year, attracting huge viewing figures, it’s not actually that impressive a feat. Social media possibly suggests more motivation to vote among England netball fans for their last second Commonwealth gold win over favourites Australia – at 7/1 they look worth a small play too. Voting is done by registering online and closes on Friday.

The WSS contenders are here. Simone Biles is the odds-on favourite. Votes can be logged from overseas for the award but Francesco Molinari and his perfect Ryder Cup should appeal to domestic voters who may still make up the majority and his 3/1 may be a shade of value.

The main award is looking a very competitive heat. There are four contenders trading under 10 which I haven’t known before.

Normally a week out from SPOTY there would be a variety of polls in various publications that would influence the market and give some indication but with no concrete shortlist to work from these are absent at the moment.

The BBC have said that the shortlist will be smaller than it has been previously. There’s room for a wildcard or two, and nothing is certain, but the following six look to have strong claims to be involved: Harry Kane, Geraint Thomas, Lewis Hamilton, Dina Asher-Smith, Lizzy Yarnold and Adam Peaty.

In August I covered the relative merits of Kane and Thomas and much of it still applies. The market then moved decisively in favour of Thomas. Kane’s late winner against Croatia at the end of November put a spanner in the works of those who have followed the advice on the site. Since then Kane has eased his way back to the front of the market (now around 2.72). Just before England turned around the one-nil deficit in that match, Kane had gone out to around 5.0 and if England had been relegated from their Nations League group I think it would have scuppered his SPOTY chances. As it is they’ve been rejuvenated.

By winning the group it puts a more positive light on England’s year and reflects better on their world cup performance. Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds are booked in for the show and Gareth Southgate and his team will be celebrated. It could be that the public go along with this and in a close contest carry Kane home. But it may not be that clear cut. It remains the case that England’s World Cup run was unspectacular (losing three games) and there is doubt about how universally popular Kane is. Kane’s teams didn’t win anything and the Nations League semis and final are next year.

Thomas is still in with a good chance and my view is that he represents the best value as it stands at 5/2. Last week he won the Sports Journalists’ Association (SJA) sportsman of the year award which can be a reasonable indicator of SPOTY success (although voting for it opens in mid-October so it doesn’t fully account for events since then). As expected he also won Welsh SPOTY and if the Welsh and cycling fans get behind him on the night (as they have both done frequently in past editions) he can still poll very well.

Hamilton (11/2) a mainstay on recent SPOTY nights. He’ll get solid loyal support and it may be that last year his vote was dampened somewhat by the tax avoidance stories that came out around this time. The lack of novelty about another F1 title though may make it tricky for him to poll enough to win it for a second time.

Asher-Smith (20/1) won the Sunday Times and also the SJA sportswoman of the year award. She’s had an outstanding breakout year and is the clear top female chance ahead of Yarnold. The BBC would be pleased if she got on the podium as it broadcast the European championships and she looks set to become a poster girl for the worlds and Olympics coming up in 2019 and 2020 which will be on the channel. She’s got the look of a future SPOTY winner and should charm viewers when interviewed on the night.

Peaty’s (50/1) had a another excellent season breaking his own world record in Glasgow and picking up a raft of golds. He polled higher than Hamilton last year so can’t be fully discounted to do reasonably well again if he’s shortlisted.

I’ll keep an eye out for any further markets and bets as the week progresses in the build up to the big night and will add any thoughts on twitter or in the comments. It will be intriguing how the market reacts in-play once the shortlist is revealed – there could be some price swings. If you’ve any thoughts on how things will play out  please feel free to comment – the market suggests an open year and there could be a few different points of view around.

My selections for the year can be found here, with the following added today:

* 1pt win Tyson Fury comeback in 12th round to win GSM 3/1 William Hill, 5/2 Ladbrokes / Coral

* 1pt win England netball Commonwealth gold to win GSM 7/1 William Hill

* 1pt win Francesco Molinari to win WSS 3/1 William Hill

* 2pts win Geraint Thomas to win SPOTY 5/2 Paddy Power, Betfred

Followers of the site are relying on Thomas to get it done with Asher-Smith as an outside hope – she could be in with a good podium shout and could be a bet if some more top 3 markets become available.

Lastly, as usual here’s a look at some of the minimum prices traded on Betfair this year: Kane 1.44, Thomas 2.36, Hamilton 5.0, Fury 4.9, Asher-Smith 5.6, Alastair Cook 9.0, Yarnold 9.2, Anthony Joshua 3.15, Jordan Pickford 6.2, Chris Froome 13, Elise Christie 9.2, Rory McIlroy 10.0, Phil Taylor 5.6.

G whizz – mid term report

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England was gripped by Gareth Southgate’s young team exceeding expectations in the World Cup. In the process Harry Kane was backed down to as short as 1.44 and Jordan Pickford into 6.0 for his goalkeeping heroics.

Croatia spoilt the party in the semis and England were outclassed by Belgium in the 3rd/4th playoff.  So there was an inevitable feeling of anti-climax, although Kane won the golden boot, emulating Gary Lineker in Mexico 86. There was no airport homecoming celebration like the one that greeted Paul Gascoigne after Italia 1990 but the general feeling was that England football fans could feel pride about their team again.

Kane settled as clear SPOTY favourite after the tournament fluctuating just above evens on Betfair.

A challenger has quickly emerged from the pack in the form of Geraint Thomas, who on Sunday became the first Welshman to win the Tour De France. It was his first grand tour win coming in the autumn of a stellar career but one that many assumed would see him fall short of a major.

Wales is proud of its son and well wishers have been out in force for someone who clearly has the full respect of his fellow professionals and is very popular. He’s been front page news and has been happy hitting the breakfast and daytime TV and radio circuit in the glow of his victory. I hope followers managed to pick up some of the 14/1 advised on the spotybet Twitter feed.

At this stage the bookies have Kane at 11/10 v Thomas at 5/2 (2.1 v 3.8 on Betfair).

My feeling is that the prices should be much closer than that, possibly with Thomas as favourite. It’s really Southgate who was the darling of England’s campaign in Russia (but managers/ coaches have historically not been eligible for the main SPOTY award). Winning the golden boot is a great achievement but is that in itself enough to drive enough people to vote. Lineker didn’t make the top three in 1986 and nor did Euro 96’s top scorer Alan Shearer. These were a long time ago though and with different competition but it’s worth noting.

England footballers have done better on other occasions – Gazza won SPOTY in 1990 and Michael Owen in 1998 when he scored that mesmerising goal in the classic match against Argentina (he was also joint Premier League top scorer for the 97/98 season). David Beckham won in 2001 for that last minute winner at Old Trafford against Greece to take England to the World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

These examples all had stand out moments when the stakes were high that live long in the memory. That doesn’t seem to be quite the case with Kane this year. When club rivalries renew and the football season approaches the key festive fixtures there must be some doubt whether fans can collaborate enough to get him over the line on SPOTY night. The main hope would appear to be if there’s plenty of goodwill for England during the show (Southgate could win coach of the year) and viewers want to reward them through Kane.

Cycling’s popularity has been weakened by the Lance Armstrong admissions, Team Sky’s controversial TUE usage and the case against Chris Froome for using too much of his inhaler (the case was dropped just before the Tour). Thomas’s price may be holding up as a reflection of this and that Froome has won the Tour four times previously but not even made the SPOTY podium.

The key and obvious difference is the Wales factor. And this is arguably the country’s greatest sporting achievement. Welsh votes would have been important in Ryan Giggs (1999) and Joe Calzaghe (2007) winning the award. Perhaps most strikingly they lifted Leigh Halfpenny to 2nd in 2013. The message to be read from social media in the last week suggests that Wales will be willing to show masses of support for G on SPOTY night. Significant multi-voting could be in play.

When Froome first won the Tour in 2013 it was in the shadow of Armstrong’s doping confession’s on Oprah in the January of that year and also came hot on the heels of Wiggins the year before. After that the novelty factor in his wins had gone. He won the Vuelta last year as well as the Tour and indications were that he was set to poll very well but the salbutamol case leak put paid to that.

Thomas appears to connect more warmly to audiences and for those who have followed his career from Olympic gold in 2008 there could be a wider willingness in the UK to vote for him not just for his Tour win but in recognition of his career as a whole. Thomas regularly played the role of super domestique on the road so there is an underdog feel to his win which also appeals.

As ever this far out there is still plenty of opportunity for leftfield challengers to emerge and campaigns to build. It’s difficult though to envisage a stronger candidate coming out of the Ryder Cup or the European Championships coming up in Glasgow and Berlin. Boxing is still bubbling away yet to really explode. A Tyson Fury win over Deontay Wilder in December could be entertaining and interesting in its timing but it remains to be seen. Anthony Joshua fights in September but any unification bout is still stuck on the horizon.

Lewis Hamilton is odds-on to win a 5th F1 title but his popularity appears to have peaked. Of the rank outsiders Tai Woffinden of speedway may be worth keeping an eye on.

I’m keen to know what people think on Kane v Thomas and whether I’m being too optimistic about the latter – please let me know in the comments if you get the chance.

 

 

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