Category Archives: Selections

shortlist review

shortlist 2017

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.

AJ’s to lose?

AJ

Each year since this blog started something would have happened by now to have kick-started the SPOTY debate.

In 2014 Steven Gerrard had slipped up at Anfield causing a mass sale of his SPOTY position. It had dipped to 1.74 when it looked likely he would be captaining Liverpool to the Premier League title.

In 2015 Sir AP McCoy had announced his impending retirement at the end of that season and he was booked on the favourite for the Grand National. He hit a low of 3.5.

In 2016 Leicester City were on their way to the title on the back of Jamie Vardy’s goals – he’d traded at around the 3.0 mark.

This year nothing comparable has happened. The middle distance runner Laura Muir has put in some spectacular indoor track performances and Johanna Konta continues her rapid climb up the tennis rankings, winning the Miami Masters 1000 title. But the very top of the market has been left untouched.

That will change tonight when long-time market leader Anthony Joshua fights Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium. The winner will be the IBF, WBA and IBO heavyweight champion.

AJ is a general 7/4 for SPOTY and 4/9 to beat Klitschko. If he wins it looks like he would go well odds-on for the BBC award (I’d guess even as short as around 1/2 in places). He’s box office and media friendly so it’s easy to see why. But he’s tricky to back at such prices, especially such a long way out from home. There’s the possibility of another fight this year and, with AJ himself talking about this as ‘a stepping stone to greatness’ could it be a case of voters waiting to see how his career goes on from here rather than crowning him SPOTY at the first attempt. Talk (however unlikely it is) of a Tyson Fury fight could also delay people wanting to vote for him – there might be a temptation to want to know who is the best.

That said, a win over Klitch would be a worthy and symbolic achievement. The post-fight media coverage would make AJ mainstream news and his wider popularity could soar. Fury provides a comparison. He caused a sensation when beating WK in November 2015, finishing 4th that year. How much missing out on the podium was down to voters not being too impressed with his achievements in SPOTY terms (and AJ would only be doing what Tyson had already done) or the negativity caused by his controversial image is something to ponder. One thing for sure is that AJ comes across as infinitely more marketable.

Of course all this may count for nothing – he’s got to win the fight which is no certainty as it represents by far the biggest test of his career so far.

Unfortunately there’s not too much at this stage that I can see as value alternatives. The next in the market are Andy Murray (generally priced 8/1), Johanna Konta (8/1), Sir Ben Ainslie (8/1), Laura Muir (14/1), Lewis Hamilton (16/1), Mo Farah (25/1), Rory McIlroy (25/1), Chris Froome (33/1) and Katarina Johnson-Thompson (33/1).

A Wimbledon win for Murray (he’s 9/4 fav) would naturally see him shorten significantly. But it may be (possibly barring getting a first French Open title) that even he’s run out of new things to do to keep the voter sufficiently engaged to push him to a fourth win in five years.

Konta is interesting but again a grand slam would probably be required (and her record at the French Open and Wimbledon so far is poor). She does though have a shot at being world number one late this year while Serena Williams is off the circuit. I wonder who would get most votes if she and Murray each won a grand slam this year. She’s one to keep an eye on but looks short enough currently.

I wouldn’t be confident in Hamilton even if it was a given that he wins the F1 title as his sport appears less popular than ever and in a state of upheaval.

Froome surprisingly didn’t even make the shortlist last year. That should be rectified this time if he won an incredible fourth Tour De France (he’s a best priced 11/10 to do so). He’s one that might be worth trading on Betfair – perhaps by laying for the TdF market if he was to go short and backing to lay in the SPOTY market. To many he continues to be clouded by his association with Team Sky.

McIlroy would need to win at least one major which is far from easy so can be discounted at this stage. Golf remains a sport that struggles on SPOTY night.

I think Ainslie would be a strong podium contender and even in with a chance of the win if his Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) team sailed to Britain’s first ever America’s Cup this June. There would be a key novelty factor to that story and Ben has an excellent image. The problem is there’s a strong favourite to overcome in Oracle Team USA who are 4/5 with Sky Bet, BAR are 11/4. More information on this event can be found here.

Of those at the top of the market, this leaves those competing at the World Athletics Championships in August. In recent years this competition has produced podium finishes for Farah (3rd in 2011, also 4th in 2013 and 7th in 2015), and Jessica Ennis-Hill (3rd in 2015). This perhaps doesn’t appear the strongest pedigree (and there remains concern about track and field’s enduring popularity with the public) but at least there is some form to go on and the fact that London is hosting this year could raise the profile of those competing.

Muir has improved significantly over the last year and is going for the 1,500m and 5,000m double. She’s in with a genuine chance of gold in the former (Paddy Power have an early price of 6/4) but still has to beat Faith Kipyegon, the Kenyan Olympic champion from last year, and the Ethiopian world record holder, Genzebe Dibaba. Do that and she could at least make SPOTY top-3 – another medal in the 5,000m would further enhance her credentials.

With Jess now retired and a new coach, Johnson-Thompson will also fancy her chances of gold in the heptathlon. She also has to reverse the form of the Olympic champion from Rio. And it has to be doubtful that she would be as popular as Jess with the voting public.

As ever Mo should stand out beyond them all in terms of medals where he’d likely be priced up as odds on to complete the 10,000m and 5,000m double. He continues to be dogged by allegations against his coach for using banned substances. He himself seems resigned to not being popular with the public in this competition. And it’s become something of a joke amongst SPOTY betters how Mo nearly always falls short.

But if some of those above him in the market fall way, and he gets a bit of a boost from retiring from the track in London with double gold, there is scope to build on last year’s fourth place. I’m amused at myself for putting up Mo again but at the price I think he’s worth a small play at this stage.

Once the market is shaken up after the fight tonight there may be other opportunities which I will update on if they arise.

Enjoy the fight if tuning in. Do you think AJ would be a shoo-in for SPOTY if he wins?  Please feel to comment below with any thoughts.

* 0.5 pts each way Mo Farah 25/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds first 3) 20/1 Bet 365 (1/4 odds first 3) (33/1 with Boylesports (1/5 odds first 3))

Wales and Querrey bring market to life

thSOUPRDAM

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

 

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

 

 

Murray in control with Sinfield a livewire

It’s been a whirlwind few days on the SPOTY markets with frenzied betting activity before and after the shortlist was announced yesterday evening.

Firstly on Saturday night Tyson Fury won over the judges in Dusseldorf to inflict a first loss on Wladimir Klitschko in 11 years. This led to a nosedive in his SPOTY price from around 80 to being matched as low as 5.7 on Betfair.

I was a bit concerned at this point as my main SPOTY man Andy Murray still had to do the business against David Goffin in Ghent on Sunday afternoon to win the Davis Cup for GB. I need not have worried as Murray completed the job in style, securing his spot just behind long-time favourite Jessica Ennis-Hill in the market.

There was a surprise naming of 12 contenders (rather than the usual 10) on the shortlist – presumably to add Fury and Murray to the original selections that had been decided some weeks ago. There was no room for Jamie Vardy, Wayne Rooney or Joe Root.

A lot of Twitter seemed  bogged down with these omissions but I think the list is fair enough on what has been a good year for British sporting achievement. The list included one name in particular that lit up the markets and social media – Kevin Sinfield. I have to confess to knowing little about this chap but I have seen his name mentioned affectionately by the vast throngs of passionate rugby league fans in recent times.

Within a few minutes of the shortlist announcement the Telegraph set up a poll. This started to show Murray well clear of Sinfield in 2nd who was in turn clear of Ennis-Hill in 3rd. I managed to get a bet on Sinfield at 66/1 each way but the bookies were forced to cut the price time and again during the evening. He is now a best priced 25/1.

Meanwhile Murray’s price contracted relentlessly, eventually overtaking Ennis-Hill as the outright favourite, and today he is now a shade odds-on. I’ve seen various other polls on Ladbrokes, the Sun and the Mirror that show excellent support for the Davis Cup hero and for readers of the site this is good news.

I recommended Sinfield last night but with each way places only the first two it is worth a bet to cover him finishing 3rd. Ladbrokes are currently offering 5/1. With some doubts about the wider popularity of Fury, and even Ennis and Hamilton this year, the support behind Sinfield shouldn’t be ignored. It has a similar feel to when Leigh Halfpenny nicked 2nd place on the blindside in 2013.

This year’s SPOTY seems to have captured imagination of punters with plenty of liquidity around on Betfair. Lots of new markets have been added and we’ll keep an eye on them in the next weeks leading up to the 20th.

* 2pts 3rd place Kevin Sinfield 5/1 Ladbrokes

 

 

Bolt worth opposing for Overseas SPOTY

This year for the first time the Overseas Sports Personality award is decided by public vote – good news for punters.

The shortlist has already been announced:

Usain Bolt athletics best price 5/6

Dan Carter rugby 3/1

Novak Djokovic tennis 6/1

Jordan Spieth golf 12/1

Serena Williams tennis 16/1

Katie Ledecky swimming 50/1

Details of how to vote and a summary of each of the contender’s 2015 achievements can be found here on the BBC SPOTY site. Voting is done through the site by registering, one vote per person. Voting closes at midday on Friday 11 December with the winner ‘announced ahead of the main awards show’.

I think there is enough reason to take on the favourite. Athletics has received some very poor publicity recently in light of the drug scandals. Not just that though – there also have to be some doubts over how well Bolt’s three sprinting golds in the World Athletics Championships have lodged in the wider public’s memories. Nor do they particularly stand out above some of Bolt’s previous years (he is already a three-time Overseas winner).

New Zealand’s Dan Carter is a rugby legend and was man of the match in the rugby world cup final at Twickenham – a special performance that would be deserving of the award.

Novak Djokovic has been in irresistible form all year winning three grand slams. Some are even now talking about him being the greatest player of all time. The top tennis players are extremely popular and Nole is no exception. After his best ever year it’s not hard to imagine a good few votes.

I’m not sure Jordan Spieth is well known enough yet amongst non-golf fans and while Serena Williams has had another great year (bar being upset in the US Open) it has not stood out particularly from those before.

By having to register on the site to vote and with no phone vote, the casual voter will be discouraged. This may not help Bolt’s cause. At the prices Carter and Djokovic appeal most of all.

* 1pt win Dan Carter 3/1 Ladbrokes

* 0.6pt win Novak Djokovic 6/1 Winner, Titan 5/1 Ladbrokes

 

lay of Murray v Goffin

* lay Andy Murray in running v David Goffin 10 pts at around 1.07 on Betfair (liability of around 0.7 points)

Followers of the site are in a good position on Murray outright for SPOTY so cautious punters may wish to secure the position by laying Murray in his current match against Goffin.