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.