team of the year – can the Olympians outfox Leicester City?


No-one will ever forget Leicester winning the Premier League this year. But how will that achievement be rewarded by the SPOTY panel?

LCFC are best-priced 1/5 to win team of the year. Since spring it’s seemed like there’s been no other option. @drRoss76 @dizzyJB on Twitter though have been suggesting for a while now that the success of the Olympic teams may mean it’s not quite as straightforward as the odds suggest.

Every Olympic year since 1984 an Olympic team in one form or another has picked up the award. This year Team GB and the Paralympics GB had well publicised success in the Games, both finishing 2nd in the medal tables. They’ll be a parade to celebrate their achievements in Manchester on Monday 17 October.

It seems more than likely an Olympian will win the main award (Anthony Joshua is the shortest priced alternative at 11/1). But after such a great year it’s easy to imagine the panel wanting to give further recognition, particularly to the Paralympians and the popular women’s hockey team.

To suit as many people as possible, one way it could play out, is to give the Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri the coach of the year award. This would then free up the team of the year award to say Team GB and Paralympics GB combined or just the women’s hockey team.

One thing to look out for when the individual shortlist is announced is the inclusion or not of a hockey player. The captain Kate Richardson-Walsh would probably be the most likely. If there is no representation then that could maybe signal team of the year being used for Rio recognition (or maybe coach of the year).

Ladbrokes offer 7/2 on any British Olympic or Paralympic Team.

Another tempting price is Coral’s 16/1 on ParalympicsGB – this is in the hope that it would pay out as a dead heat if it they were a joint winner with Team GB. Also with Coral is 10/1 for the women’s hockey team.

* 2pts any British Olympic or Paralympic Team 7/2 Ladbrokes

* 1pt British Olympics women’s hockey team 10/1 Coral

* 1pt ParalympicsGB 16/1 Coral




oh brother

Just when the market appeared to be in a peaceful state of equilibrium, this happened on Sunday evening in Mexico..

In these few moments, Jonny Brownlee went from being 1.01 to win the Triathlon World Series to runner-up. More importantly to SPOTY betting fans, it marked the beginning of a plunge on brother Alistair’s price from 200/1 with bookmakers (400 on Betfair) to him now challenging for favouritism (4.3).

There was some debate about whether this helping hand should have meant disqualification. But it appears it was within the rules. Whatever some may think, it has caused something of a sensation. It was the number one story on the BBC Sport website, the ‘good news closer’ on all the main news programmes and was featured in the newspapers. It was shared thousands of times on social media and retweeted by celebrities.

The question is: can Alistair win SPOTY?

Firstly, Alistair has to make the shortlist. It’s worth a quick reminder of the criteria that the panel looks at when deciding who should be on the shortlist:

  • Reflects UK sporting achievements on the national and/or international stage;
  • Represents the breadth and depth of UK sports; and
  • Takes into account ‘impact’ over and beyond the sport or sporting achievement in question.

Based on all these, he’s the standout candidate.

In Rio he became the first man to retain the Olympic title. Triathlon is growing, covering the main mass-participation sports. And his actions to help his brother have crossed over into the mainstream, transcending the sport itself.

It’s that last point that gives Alistair a big advantage over the other Olympians in this most competitive of years. I’ve struggled to remember when there has been something like this that has the ability to effortlessly draw on the crucial support of casual viewers on the night,  in particular women. Gazza’s tears is perhaps is the closest example.

There are also plenty of question marks about those up alongside him in the market. A SPOTY winner invariably has an element of novelty factor. Murray and Farah don’t offer such a thing.

It’s a real shame I didn’t put him up on here at the bigger prices. It could be that as the autumn moves on people forget a bit about what happened this week and the price drifts. But on the night it will always be a powerful VT that may well just clinch things. He’s just such a nice lad to boot.

So this most unpredictable of events has added intrigue to an already fascinating SPOTY year. What do you think about Alistair’s chances? Please feel free to keep the debate going in the comments section.



Olympics debrief

team gb

Like London 2012, Rio 2016 took a little while to get going for Team GB but once it did it the medals flowed. Great Britain and Northern Ireland became the first host to win more medals at the next Games. To finish second in the medal table to USA was a sensational achievement and they are getting all the plaudits.

It was absorbing sport. The middle weekend was particularly exhilarating with Mo Farah winning gold on the Saturday night in the 10,000m, followed by a Super Sunday where GB had its best day for golds in history. Max Whitlock became the first Brit to win a gold in gymnastics and doubled up a couple of hours later. Justin Rose, Jason Kenny and Andy Murray also collected. Leaving the sofa wasn’t an option.

Tuesday in the velodrome was another highlight with Kenny and Laura Trott, Britain’s golden couple, both winning gold. Kenny joined Chris Hoy with a record six in total and Trott won two, to go clear with four as the most by any GB woman. This was the BBC’s most watched session of the fortnight with over 11 million viewers.

The gold rush continued, culminating in Mo’s 5,000m win – giving him the double-double. He’s Britain’s most successful track athlete and arguably its greatest ever sportsperson, given that running must be the most competitive sport of all.

Hats off to James Ross (@DrRoss76) who came up with some great stats on knighthoods and previous SPOTY winners in the comments here. He was quick to call the potential for Sir Mo and his chances in this year’s SPOTY.

Mo certainly looks a danger to the spotybet selections at the moment. There continues to be doubt about his popularity to the wider voting demographic on SPOTY night, having disappointed backers on numerous occasions, not least when off the podium in 2012 after his first double. But his achievements this time are rightly being lauded and there seems a determination amongst his fans for some SPOTY recognition this time round.

Mo himself has even acknowledged the situation. Although how much he really cares it’s hard to be sure as he forgot he was actually on the podium in 2011 (how could he?).

I knew Adam Peaty was a bad pick just hours after posting it but fortunately we have Murray (at 10/1 ew, 7/2 e/w and 2/1), Trott (16/1 ew) and Whitlock (66/1 ew) high up in the running, as well as Gareth Bale. Murray is trading at around 2.8, Trott 7.6 and Whitlock 25  at the moment to win on Betfair, and all in with good chances of placing. They have provided solid trading material at least, having traded at 1.8, 6.0, 6.4 respectively along the way.

After doubting Mo, I’m a little worried about him now upsetting the apple cart. It will be interesting to see what happens to his price in the coming months. There aren’t now many more big sporting events to come that could shake things up. There are of course the Paralympics. Plus Hamilton could win a third F1 title and Murray has the US Open and potentially the Davis Cup to come. We also have a few world cup qualifiers and the Kenny and Trott wedding.

I get the feeling Murray may have to win one of the two to stay as favourite as I’m not sure how ending the season on a bit of a disappointment, coupled with having won it last year (as well as 2013) will appeal to the voters on the night.

The media seems in a bit of a SPOTY frenzy at the moment in what is a vintage year – one that hopefully translates into plenty of liquidity on the various Betfair markets as we move towards and beyond the shortlist announcement at the end of November.

My certainties to make the list at the moment are: Murray, Farah, Trott, Kenny, Whitlock, Peaty

Probables: Adams, Froome, Hamilton, Skelton, Joshua, Willett, Bale

Potentials: one or two Paralympians, Frampton, A Brownlee, Dujardin, a wild card

Please feel free to share your thoughts below.

what next? a look at the dangers to Murray

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Andy Murray winning the Wimbledon title for the second time has seen him go clear favourite for SPOTY. He’s around evens with the bookies but much more uneasy on the exchanges – his price having drifted from around 2.0 shortly after match point yesterday, to nearer 3.0 this evening.

The reason for the doubt is obvious – it’s an Olympic year and Murray is still a very long way out from home. Added to this is the stat that no-one has ever gone back-to-back SPOTY, or won it three times in total. There is some concern too that Murray already won the award on the back of his first Wimbledon win in 2013, and there would be much less reason to vote for that achievement this time round.

While going clear so early could easily see him overhauled by a late challenger, Muzz will still likely be very much in the limelight himself. He has said he is focussed on defending his 2012 Olympic gold in the Rio singles and there is also the possibility of him playing doubles (he won silver with Laura Robson in London). He will also be a strong second favourite behind Novak Djokovic for the US Open which concludes in early September. So he has a fair chance to reinforce his credentials in these events.

It’s a bit of a tricky one to weigh up at this stage. Followers of the site are in a good position on Murray (and have Gareth Bale too, 2nd favourite on Betfair) but it will be important to keep an eye out for challengers who could well upset the current favourite on the night in December.

Barring Bale, the market has Anthony Joshua, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Jamie Vardy, Chris Froome, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Mo Farah in descending order of likelihood to win.

I would be very surprised if Froome or Farah could somehow win having fallen well short previously. I don’t think Froome has a wide enough appeal and there are numerous other cyclists in the mix. Mo’s achievements are up there with any athlete but he’s very exposed now and I’m not sure what will change this time round to see him get enough votes. There are also plenty of drugs related stories which continue to shadow the whole of athletics.

I think Vardy will struggle to make the shortlist as it may be that the BBC thinks Leicester City Team of the Year is sufficient recognition for their sensational title win in May. Plus Bale has arguably done more in the eyes of shortlist compilers in winning the Champions League and spearheading Wales to the Euro semis.

No-one has been on the SPOTY podium more than Jess and again she can’t be ignored this time round. I often think there is an element of a lifetime achievement type recognition when people vote for a SPOTY winner and she should receive a large backing if she wins gold, more probably than KJT would. Both heptathletes have a strong opponent to overcome first though in Brianne Theisen-Eaton who is 2/1 (Jess is 13/8 fav and KJT 9/4).

The heptathlon is sure to be a market mover and Jess in particular has to be monitored. I do have some nagging doubts about the popularity of all track and field athletes though these days – they just don’t seem to have the same appeal to the public as in days gone by. 

Joshua is an interesting one. All going to plan for the rest of the year, he looks certain to be on the shortlist, having become world heavyweight champion earlier in 2016. He’s very popular and seems on the cusp of crossing over into the mainstream. There’s a lot going on in boxing at the moment though and if Tyson Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko (if they do eventually get their rematch on this year) it would muddy the waters somewhat. So too would a scheduling of a Fury/ Klitschko v Joshua match up to come in 2017. Maybe viewers would want to wait to see what happens in 2017 before voting for the 2016 AJ. 

Outside these, the Olympics as a whole is bound to create a whole host of stories that should capture the imagination – with any multiple gold medal winner in with a shout. I’m still very interested to see how the British gymnasts get on and what sort of a following that generates – a first Olympic GB gold in that discipline would be an attractive story.

All that said, it’s not clear at this stage who the main challenger to Murray will be. But a challenger I’m sure there will be – it’s just making sure he or she is backed at a decent price at the right time. The Olympics, as always, is the obvious port of call and it’s not long now until it all kicks off on Friday 5 August 2016.. Please check in on the site and on Twitter for updates throughout.


Wales and Querrey bring market to life


I was all set this evening to pen a half-year report on the market to date and to look forward to what will be a key couple of months. I’ve long had doubts about Jamie Vardy and Anthony Joshua’s ability to last the distance at the head of the betting and was to suggest adding Andy Murray to the portfolio (standard).

Then, as I was watching the build up to Wales v Belgium in the Euros, a friend messaged to say simply, ‘Djok?’. The news was that the big serving world number 41 Sam Querrey was about to go two sets to love up against Novak Djokovic, leaving Murray as slight Wimbledon favourite on Betfair.

I was a bit disappointed to have missed advising Murray at 16/1 pre-tournament as he has not just Wimbledon but potentially the Olympics, Davis Cup and US Open to showcase his talents. So with Murray at 10/1 at this point for SPOTY it was time to strike, as advised on the spotybet Twitter account (now best priced 7/1).

No-one has consistently polled more than Muzz in recent years and although there could be some voter fatigue after he won it last year and in 2013, it’s easy to imagine post-Brexit vote Scotland wanting any excuse to get behind their man again.

The good thing about SPOTY markets is that big prices can hang around for weeks. But, in certain circumstances like these, quick reactions are needed to secure the best prices (they lasted around for an hour or two this evening). The bad thing about SPOTY markets is that once prices have gone they can be quite sticky in coming back out again (even when they should). So timing can be key.

Djokovic and Querrey will be back out tomorrow to finish off the match with Nole needing to win three sets in a row. We’ll keep an eye on that one but, whatever the result in that particular match, anyone availing of anything around 8/1 or better on Murray probably has a fair coupon.

The evening drama continued with a magnificent Wales dumping Belgium out of the Euros and their talisman Gareth Bale leapfrogging Murray to go to the head of the market. The Champions League winner simply had to be selected during the match at 7/1 and 8/1 (with the 6/1 still available with Bet 365 a good price).

This is a fairytale and even a semi-final loss on Wednesday to Ronaldo’s Portugal could still be enough to see Bale shortlisted and then attract a load of Welsh support on SPOTY night. England’s semi-final losses in 1990 and 1996 are still remembered with a strange fondness to this day – Gazza of course being the 1990 SPOTY winner.

As ever, there’s plenty that can still happen this year – not least the Olympics – as well as in the remainder of the current Euros and Wimbledon. But Murray and Bale are just the type of sporting giants that need to be onside at this stage.

Advised earlier this evening at prices available at the time:

* 1.5pts each way Andy Murray 10/1 generally available

* 2pts win Gareth Bale 8/1 Coral and Paddy Power, 7/1 generally available

plus 2pt lay of Wales v Belgium at 1.50 on Betfair

* 2pts win Gareth Bale 7/1 and 6/1 generally available


recency bias and SPOTY

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The last two SPOTYs have seen the main award collected by two men who produced the sporting goods late in the year, within weeks of the ceremony.

Both Andy Murray and Lewis Hamilton managed to turn over the long time odds-on favourites (Jessica Ennis-Hill and Rory McIlroy) when it was time to vote in December.

This raises the questions:

– does performing later in the year mean more votes? and

– does performing earlier in the year mean fewer votes? or

– is voting just based on merit of performance (in the eyes of the voter), whatever time of year it took place?

In other words, what is the extent of any recency bias when it comes to SPOTY votes?

I thought it might be of mild interest to look at all the SPOTY podium finishes since 1980. I split the timing of all the performances linked to those podium places into three – spring (start of the year up until the end of May), summer (June, July, August) and autumn (September onwards).

Sometimes there would be more than one stand-out performance in the year from an individual (for example, Mark Cavendish won the green jersey in the Tour De France in the summer and then the World Championship road race in autumn). In those cases I recorded that as the time of the later performance (it is often the latter one that consolidated and / or established the merit of that contender’s year when it came to votes).

Here’s how it looks for each decade:

podiums by time of year

Just over half of the podium finishes were from summer performances, 28% from autumn and 20% from spring. From 1990 onwards, 90% of all podium performances took place after spring.

Since 1980 there were six (Robin Cousins, Torvill and Dean, Nick Faldo, Steve Davis, Ryan Giggs, Tony McCoy) whose spring performances were such that they saw off all challengers over the rest of the year to be crowned winners. This compares with 16 winners from summer and 11 from autumn.

It is worth noting that spring’s podium showings are quite strongly influenced by the popularity of snooker and figure skating in the 1980s (with their major competitions traditionally early in the year). Steve Davis, for example, popped up six times in the decade.

So it does perhaps look difficult, especially from the 1990s, to do well from an early slot, with summer the best and autumn next.

But maybe it’s just that the summer simply has the most events where worthy performances are more likely to take place (and maybe autumn has more than spring). There is certainly some truth in this as summer is full of big occasions, including the Olympics – the biggest of them all.

And maybe the big summer (and autumn) performances would have done just as well in SPOTY terms if they had taken place in spring.

I guess one way to try to imagine the effect of any recency bias might be to think about SPOTY winners and what would have happened if their performances had happened early in the year. I think most would agree that Murray and Hamilton would have received a good deal fewer votes in the last couple of years if their performances hadn’t taken place when very fresh in the memory at the time of voting.

The extent of the effect can never be known for sure – we can only speculate. But it’s worth pondering, particularly as Jamie Vardy has now gone clear SPOTY favourite..


early thoughts on SPOTY 2016

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Not since Damon Hill in 1996 has SPOTY (in an Olympic year) gone to someone who had not competed at the Games. Barring maybe an England win at the Euros, the Olympics looks the place to find this year’s winner too.

London 2012 was spectacularly successful for Great Britain (29 golds, 17 silvers, 19 bronzes). Such a performance is unlikely to be repeated this time round (no hosting country has ever improved their tally at the following Games) but there will still be plenty challenging for gold in Rio.

I’m not entirely sure how accurate the predictions of the Infostrada model for the Olympic medal table are, but at the very least it provides an interesting starting point. Clicking on GB shows the individuals predicted to win what.

The cyclists of course cannot be ignored, but the more I’ve looked, the more I’ve found it tricky to guess who the public will latch on to this year. There are so many to consider – Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Laura Trott, Jason Kenny, Lizzie Armitstead and Mark Cavendish, to name a few.

Trott had a great world track cycling championships in March and should win gold in the omnium in the Rio velodrome (also has a chance in the team pursuit). She has been quite well fancied in the (limited) early SPOTY market skirmishes – now a best priced 25/1. Her boyfriend Kenny could also win gold in the sprint which would make a good story for the media. Trott is a superb track cyclist, still only 23 with a stellar career to come. It’s worth bearing in mind that Trott won two golds in London and did not even make the shortlist (she was a relative unknown then).

It could be that there are a number of cyclists who win a single gold medal. How will the shortlist panel decide between them, let alone the public? Perhaps a second medal will be required, perhaps even a second gold. Trott (although having to rely on her less talented pursuit teammates) and Froome look best placed to provide such an opportunity.

Froome is going for the time trial (for which he would start favourite, or close to favourite with the German specialist Tony Martin) and the road race which will suit the Grand Tour general classification riders like him (and his long time rivals Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana). Froome could also win the Tour De France again and/ or one of the other Grand Tours adding further depth to his credentials.

Ultimately though Froome, to my mind, remains difficult to envisage as a SPOTY winner and two 6th place finishes (both times after winning the Tour) suggest he may struggle to haul in the masses of votes that will be required.

From a different angle, another to consider is previous SPOTY champ Wiggins. He’s only going for the team pursuit in his final Olympics so one gold would be his maximum return. Any medal though will take him to eight all-time at the Olympics – overtaking Sir Chris Hoy as the most by any Briton (he would still be behind Hoy’s six golds). This could be quite big news and historically that sort of most-career-medals factor has been popular with voters – Hoy and Sir Steven Redgrave winning recently on the back of it. Wiggo has won the thing already though and maybe another cyclist could outperform him in Rio, both potentially dampening support.

The historical medal angle is worth touching on again in relation to Trott. No British woman has won three Olympic gold medals yet over their career. Trott has every chance of making it to three.

While GB’s cycling talent remains strong there have been improvements since 2012 in Britain’s swimming and gymnastics teams.

Adam Peaty is the world record holder in the 100m breaststroke and is the main hope in the pool in Rio. He has to be respected and could easily become a household name this summer. Britain should improve on the London tally of one silver and two bronzes.

The gym should also provide plenty of interest for the media. Britain have never won an Olympic gymnastics gold medal. In Max Whitlock they have a man who could change all that. Last year at the world championships Whitlock won gold (the first by a British man at the competition) on the pommel horse and he is confident of being able to do the same in Rio. This would be something of a revelation. Not only that, he is part of a GB team that have been improving in the team event.

Viewing figures for the world championships were very good and, all going well, I can see gymnastics capturing the public’s imagination. Britain also have returning Olympic medallist Louis Smith, who should be in contention, as well as 2014 Young SPOTY winner Claudia Fragapane.

Whitlock has made the shortlist the last two years, last year polling 25,925 (Jessica Ennis-Hill polled 79,898 in 3rd). He’s on an upward curve and that elusive British gold could see him leap up onto the SPOTY podium. I think he’s worth a bet at 66/1, 50/1 generally, in case that happens (Coral also have gymnastics as the winning sport at 33/1 which also looks fair).

My other main bet at this stage is Charlotte Dujardin in equestrian. Dujardin already has a strong SPOTY pedigree finishing fourth in 2014 with 75,814 votes. This year she will be favourite for gold in Rio in the dressage with her wonderful horse Valegro. She will also have a chance in the team event (although Germany will provide stiff competition). Two golds would complete a double-double (won two golds in 2012) and likely take Dujardin  clear with most golds of any female British Olympian. She’s currently generally available at 100/1.

* 0.75 pts each way (1,2,3 1/5) Max Whitlock 66/1 Sportingbet; 50/1 Coral, Bet 365, Bet Victor 

* 0.5 pts each way (1,2,3 1/5) Charlotte Dujardin 100/1 Coral, Ladbrokes, Bet Victor, Winner



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