As ever social media seemed more concerned with who was off the shortlist than who was on it. It wasn’t a surprise that Jermain Defoe was left out – it would have been strange if he won SPOTY for something not based on sporting acheivement and probably would have opened up even more tedious debate. I’m sure his friendship with Bradley Lowery will be recognised on the night.
Twelve were named with probably only six worth serious consideration for the podium. Those are AJ (best price 1/4), Lewis Hamilton (6/1), Chris Froome (16/1), Mo Farah (25/1), Harry Kane (40/1) and Jonathan Rea (40/1) (the others are Adam Peaty, Jonnie Peacock, Anja Shrubsole, Johanna Konta, Bianca Walkden and Elise Christie). I’ve not been able to spot any each way prices, with all bookies going win only (sometimes each way the first two would be offered). A selection of bookies now have markets up for ‘winner without Joshua’ and ‘top 3’ though which is good news. Betfair now has the forecast and tricast markets.
It’s not the most inspiring of SPOTY years as there’s a lack of novelty in the achievements at the top of the market. On this day two years ago Tyson Fury beat Wladamir Klitschko. So AJ hasn’t really broken new ground in that sense. Froome has already won the Tour De France three times before as has Hamilton with the F1 title. Farah won another long distance gold to add to his big collection.
The last three are true sporting giants though and up there with Britain’s finest sportspeople of all time. Froome also won the Vuelta this season becoming only the third cyclist to win the Vuelta and the Tour De France in the same season. Hamilton overtook Jackie Stewart to become the most successful British F1 driver with four titles and broke Michael Shumacher’s career record for pole positions. Farah retired from the track as Britain’s most successful track athlete, winning the 10,000m at the world championships in London.
There is plenty of reason then as to why each could gain support. All three also have bad publicity to overcome though. Froome and Farah in terms of the ongoing drugs allegations in their sports and Hamilton in relation to the recent tax avoidance story. All have had criticism for not being based in the UK (although Mo has now returned home) and two for not being British at all.
It’s tricky to unravel how this all impacts on how the public will vote. Historically Froome and Farah have notoriously polled poorly, with only Mo reaching the podium with 3rd place back in 2011. Hamilton only managed 5th place back in 2015 but previously upset Rory McIlroy to win SPOTY in 2014.
In AJ’s favour is that his April scrap with Klitschko was absorbing entertainment. The assumption would be that BBC will be allowed some footage of this fight on the night (even though it was on Sky) which should make for a good VT. He’s very marketable and extremely popular, selling out big stadiums minutes after tickets are released. The negatives are that, although he laboured through an easier fight more recently, his Klitschko win seems a long time ago and there is the promise of an even bigger 2018 where he could unify the heavyweight titles.
AJ appears the most likely winner but 1/4 does seem skinny.
Usually the Telegraph website has a poll soon after the shortlist is announced which has historically been fairly accurate. I’ve not seen any sign of it this year. The other polls spotted give a mixed picture. The Sun and the Mirror both show AJ ahead (Sun: AJ 26%, Ham 18%, Farah 16%, Froome 10%, Kane 9%; Mirror: AJ 43%, Ham 19%, Froome 9%, Farah 8%, Kane 8%. (although the phrasing of the latter poll asks ‘who will win’ which may not be as revealing as asking ‘who should win’).
The Radio Times and Eurosport also have votes. The Radio Times one could be a reasonable fit with the BBC SPOTY voter but it’s a bit unclear how many have voted in it. And the Eurosport one could easily be somewhat skewed as it is the channel of choice for cycling fans. Both show Froome clear top of the pile with AJ 2nd just ahead of the rest.
Overall though I have been struck by the general social media support for Froome’s achievements. In previous years this has been missing. He was surprisingly omitted from the shortlist last year and could it be that there’s been a storing up of goodwill towards him that could play out this year. His Vuelta win sets this year apart from his previous years and it is also a weaker edition this time round.
Kane and Rea are the other contenders that are of interest. Vardy and Bale underperformed last year and there are doubts about how well Kane will poll too. Spurs have huge support though and he’ll need careful monitoring.
This year Rea became Superbikes champion for the 3rd time and was also awarded an MBE. He appears to have a very loyal fan base and there was a petition for him to be included on the shortlist. He lives on the Isle of Man and is Northern Irish so he could get significant regional support. 10,000 people signed the petition so the potential for multi phone votes should be respected. If there is a campaign type candidate this year Rea looks the most likely.
Followers of the selections on the site so far this year are essentially on Mo to place at good prices (now a best priced 9/4). As always with Mo and SPOTY he’s been a bit unfortunate – both Hamilton and Froome went on win the F1 title and the Vuelta respectively.
At the current prices it looks worth favouring Froome and Rea over Hamilton, AJ and Kane.
* 0.5pts win Froome 14/1 generally available inc Betfred, Bet Victor, Betway (16/1 with Boylesports)
* 1pt Froome ‘without AJ’ 4/1 Bet 365 (7/2 generally available elsewhere)
* 5pts Froome Top 3 Finish 5/6 William Hill (10/11 with Boylesports)
* 2pts Rea Top 3 Finish 11/4 Ladbrokes, Coral
I’ll keep an eye out for any new markets that appear, including hopefully a Team of the Year one.
If you’ve any thoughts on what looks a bit of a tricky year please do add your comments and any predictions of the 1-2-3.