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.