Category Archives: Selections

Olympics Debrief

Once again the Olympics delivered. Despite all the challenges it provided its usual mix of outstanding performances, high drama and captivating stories. Team GB’s success, escalating as the Games went on, across a range of sports, added to the appeal for UK viewers. They finished 4th in the medal table, below their 2nd place in Rio but equal on 65 medals with London.

There was uncertainty about how Tokyo 2020 would come across without paying fans but there seemed to be enough spectators (athletes, staff and officials etc) at most events to create a decent enough atmosphere.

There were 22 Team GB golds but three in particular had the SPOTY markets scrambled. Breakfast time on the first Monday and Tom Daley finally wins a first gold at his 4th Olympics in the synchronised diving with Matty Lee – his price tumbling from 80/1 into around 4/1 (available at 160 and bigger on Betfair a couple of days before the opening ceremony).

After Dina Asher-Smith failed to qualify for the 100m final and withdrew from the 200m, Daley became the new SPOTY favourite.

The market settled down until Laura Kenny won gold with Katie Archibald in a dominant display in the madison on Friday. This, along with an earlier silver in the team pursuit, made Laura the most successful female Olympian (5 golds and 1 silver) and the first to win a gold at three successive Games. She traded as short as evens for a moment on Betfair and Daley was briefly forgotten.

Daley shored up his position by winning bronze in the individual event on Saturday morning. At this point Jason Kenny had drifted out to 100+ on Betfair. He had not been showing his usual big meeting form – he said he was ‘rubbish’ during the team sprint (where he won silver) and ‘struggling’ in the individual sprint (eliminated in the quarter-finals).

Suddenly, surprisingly Kenny then burst into life in the keirin final in the small hours of Sunday morning launching off the front to shock everyone. His gold was his 7th in total going clear of Sir Chris Hoy as Britain’s most successful Olympian of all-time. He became the new SPOTY favourite, also trading around evens on Betfair before settling around the 9/4 mark with the bookies.

The current market looks like this: J Kenny 9/4, Daley 9/4, Peaty 10/1, L Kenny 12/1, Lewis Hamilton 16/1, Mark Cavendish 16/1, Max Whitlock 20/1, Lauren Price 25/1.

The Kennys have made history and the titles of being the most successful male and female Olympians give them a certain gravitas. Jason’s overall record eclipses Laura’s so it seems right that he is shorter in the odds.

There are some warning signs around the likelihood of Jason winning SPOTY though. It has to be noted that in 2016 he won 3 golds, the most by a GB athlete in Rio, yet finished only 10th in SPOTY (Laura was 8th). He’s someone who generally doesn’t seek the limelight and is potentially up against not only Laura but also Cavendish who could still yet prove to be a bigger draw for cycling fans.

Could it be that the market is also overplaying the appeal of the historical feat to voters. After all in 2016 Jason had gone level with Hoy at the top of the all-time list. And Hoy himself in 2012 went clear at the top with his 6 golds in total yet only finished 7th that year (although he had already won it in 2008).

At this stage my feeling is the value lies in Daley. He has a long history with SPOTY being the only person to win Young SPOTY three times (voted for by a panel, rather than the public) in 2007, 2009 and 2010 (when he also finished 6th for the main award with 50k votes).

He has a huge following (2.3m Twitter followers), with a life story that is inspiring to many. The social media hits on his Olympics performances exceed his main SPOTY rivals and he was clear leader in a BBC poll of people’s favourite Tokyo 2020 gold.

His bronze medal in the individual event should secure him a place on the shortlist. Finally winning Olympic gold after all these years provides some of that novelty value that is key in SPOTY winners – he offers something different to his competitors that in some ways are hard to separate from each other. I’d expect a strong VT on the night, some knitting chat, and a desire among the BBC audience to vote for him.

In terms of the rest of the year we have the Paralympics to come which can always provide a good story or two. The world track cycling championships will also take place in October where it may be worth keeping an eye on the Kennys. There is the Ryder Cup too. Hamilton can never be entirely discounted if we wins a record 8th F1 title. But overall there may not be too much opportunity left for others to get involved.

* 3 pts win Tom Daley 9/4 Sky Bet, Betfred, Boyles, 5/2 Bet 365, 11/4 Coral / Ladbrokes

It will be interesting to see how long the shortlist will be this year. In 2016 it was 16 and 2012 it was 12. There is always the possibility of a big priced contender coming with a late charge.

I’d be interested to know if people think I’m being too positive on Daley’s chances as I know some are concerned he may not appeal to a typical SPOTY voter, please feel free to add a comment.

history in the making?

Up until a couple of weeks ago this had been the quietest of starts to a SPOTY year. England’s run to the Euros final and Mark Cavendish’s renaissance in the Tour de France have changed that.

Harry Kane (7/2) and Raheem Sterling (5/1) have replaced long term favourite Dina Asher-Smith (6/1) at the head of the market. Cavendish is in the slip stream at 8/1.

Since the start of the century British sportsmen and women have conquered many events that had previously seemed out of reach for many years. There has been: a two-time Wimbledon champion, multiple Tour de France titles, England cricket and rugby world cup wins, multiple Ashes victories, as well as Olympic gold rushes.

One prize for many though is valued above them all – a major international football championship. England are now marginal favourites (4/5) to beat Italy on Sunday night to win the Euros.

It would be the sporting highlight of the year leading to a likely domination of the awards on SPOTY night. When England won the rugby and cricket world cups it led to clear cut wins in the main award for Jonny Wilkinson and Ben Stokes.

The tricky part is pinpointing who such an individual would be if England were to win. Kane and Sterling have stolen the headlines throughout the tournament and are the most likely to impress on the night.

Kane is on 4 goals, one behind Ronaldo and Schick, so could finish as top scorer. Due to the tie-break rules he would need a goal and two assists to beat Ronaldo to the golden boot. Sterling is on 3 goals.

Sterling is 7/4 favourite to be voted by a panel as best player of the tournament . Kane is 7/2. It is this difference, plus a sense that there is more of story with Sterling – with him growing up in the shadows of Wembley etc – that makes him the more appealing option at the odds.

A European Championship winner who was player of the tournament would be a big vote winner on SPOTY night. Sterling also won the league with Man City which is a small bonus for him too in any end of year write-up.

It’s hard to be too confident – all sorts of drama could yet unfold – but overall he’s probably the most sensible pick as it stands, with Kane also worth a saver in case he denies Sterling player of the tournament.

But there remains a fair chance that England could fall at the final hurdle. Could Kane or Sterling then still win SPOTY? It would seem much more difficult.

Cavendish would then become a very interesting contender if he can level or beat the Tour de France all time stage win record of 34 held by Belgium legend Eddy Merckx. He’s currently on 33 and should have three more sprinting opportunities during the last 10 days of the Tour (assuming he can get through the tough Pyrenees mountain stages in good form). This is a record that has stood since 1975 and has long been considered near unbeatable.

Stage 13 is currently in progress (Friday afternoon) where it’s looking like a sprint finish sometime between 4 and 5pm – so there could be a real chance to level the record today. If he was to do so, his current SPOTY price would disappear.

There is also the last stage on 18 July, finishing on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, that looks suitable for a win. Cavendish has already won there 4 times and has the services of his Quick Step team’s lead out train who would be looking to deliver him to the line in similar style to his 3rd win in this year’s edition:

The Manx missile is a previous SPOTY winner in 2011 when he won the green jersey in the Tour and the world championship. Cyclists have an exceptional SPOTY record in recent times taking the main award 4 times in the last 13 years.

He remains a very popular character, his late call up and comeback this year adding to the appeal after battling Epstein-Barr virus and depression. He had long been written off by most as never to add to his last Tour stage win in 2016.

The complicating factor to all of this is the Olympics coming up in Tokyo – the opening ceremony is on 23 July. A classic SPOTY stat is that in any Olympic year from 2000 the SPOTY winner has won at least one Olympic gold (Redgrave, Holmes, Hoy, Wiggins, Murray).

Other factors have to be taken into account though in the assessment, including the strength of the opposition. There is also some doubt as to whether these Games will capture the public imagination as much as normal with them being played out without fans.

Asher-Smith would be a worthy contender if she could win gold in one or both of the 100m or 200m. She received a boost with the withdrawal of Sha’Carri Richardson in the 100m but still has tough competition in the form of Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah. In the 200m American Gabby Thomas has been setting very quick times. DAS is 4/1 joint second favourite in it with Sky Bet.

Laura Kenny (20/1) is another obvious candidate. She has a chance of three golds in the velodrome. Such a haul would take her to 7 in her career and top all-time above Hoy on 6 and also her husband Jason (depending on if he can add to his 6 golds). This could be appealing to voters. The question would be who might win in a head-to-head with Cavendish.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson (20/1) in the heptathlon is another to keep an eye on although is coming back from injury.

The Olympics, and potentially Paralympics that follow, can also throw up more left-field contenders. As ever they will be worth carefully monitoring.

Overall, at this stage though, I think it’s worth some small bets on the non-Olympians given the history that could be made over the coming days.

* 0.75 pt win Raheem Sterling 5/1 Bet 365, William Hill (6/1 Betfred)

* 0.75 pt win Harry Kane 7/2 William Hill (4/1 Sky Bet, 888 Sport)

* 1 pt win Mark Cavendish 8/1 Coral / Ladbrokes 7/1 William Hill, Bet 365

SPOTY 2020 preview

The SPOTY 2020 show is this Sunday evening at 8pm on BBC1. The shortlist of six was announced two weeks ago. As ever most of the social media chat was about who missed out and who’s got or not got a personality etc etc.

Anyway all those on the list seem to have done alright this year so it seems fair enough to me. The key piece of news in the build up to the shortlist being revealed was that Marcus Rashford wouldn’t be included. He will instead be presented with a special award on the night for his work to help children in poverty.

For a long time Rashford was all the rage in the SPOTY markets, backed down to as low as 1.6 to win and lower in the top 3 market. But there was always the likelihood that his sporting achievements during the year wouldn’t be sufficient to make the cut.

Lewis Hamilton is the strong favourite at 2/7 . The good news for followers of the site is that Hamilton was advised in July at 14/1 (12/1 generally available). He equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 F1 titles and went past his grand prix victories tally.

Next is Ronnie O’Sullivan at 13/2 also previously advised, at a lower 5/1, just prior to his world championship win in August. Much of what was discussed previously about Hamilton and O’Sullivan still applies now.

Jordan Henderson (11/1) is a difficult one to gauge. Footballers have struggled to make much of an impression in recent years – Raheem Sterling was out of the top 3 last year and Harry Kane was third in 2018 despite winning the golden boot at the world cup. How well the Liverpool captain polls will depend on how motivated fans are to vote. A first title since 1990 may be enough reason but it’s tricky to tell. Could the news of the passing away of their much-liked manager Gerard Houllier provide an extra push?

Tyson Fury’s (16/1) win over Deontay Wilder in February seems a long time ago. He has also asked to be removed from the shortlist and for his fans not to vote for him. Today on ITV he said his lawyers had written to the BBC insisting he be removed. It seems the BBC are entitled to still run a poll with him in it if they want and have just confirmed he’ll remain in the line-up. He may not be given too much fanfare during the show and plenty made about how next year and a fight with Anthony Joshua is the real test. Fury does have a large passionate fan base though and can’t be ruled out completely. One recent bit of SPOTY form that may be worth noting is that he was beaten to best sporting moment by the England netball team in 2018. When considering boxing’s broad appeal the shock of AJ not making the podium when 1.01 to do so in Mo’s year of 2016 also still lingers.

The main campaign contender at this stage appears the female flat jockey Hollie Doyle (20/1). As is invariably the case with equine sports people they receive strong backing from those in their industry. In a year when voting numbers may be down, a top 3 finish is achievable.

Stuart Broad is the outsider at 200/1. This reflects recent cricket nominations failing to make much of an impression.

Overall it does look as though Hamilton is in a strong position. But it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see him toppled. The make up of the top 3 is a puzzle and not easy to pin down. All in the running have positives. The top three odds for O’Sullivan, Henderson, Doyle and Fury of 3/10, evens, 6/5 and 2/1 respectively reflect this competitiveness.

Given the good position on Hamilton and O’Sullivan it seems sensible to have a small bit of cover on Henderson in particular to win just in case. The campaign for Doyle, and her being the only female, makes a small top 3 bet worth an interest but not with too much confidence. Skybet has some forecast and tricast markets up for those wanting to throw a dart or two.

* 1pt Jordan Henderson 10/1 general

* 0.5pts Hollie Doyle top 3 6/5 Betfair Sportsbook/ Paddy Power

* 0.2pts Henderson-Hamilton-Doyle tricast 28/1 Skybet

The World Sport Star shortlist has also been announced and Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power have a market – details of the contenders can be found in the link. Voting, and likely the market, closes tomorrow (Tuesday 15 December) at midday, with the winner announced before the show. Only one internet vote can be made per person and it’s open to UK residents only. UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov has a huge following. The concern is that the UK-only criteria will be too much of a stumbling block. At the 8/1 available it’s a risk worth taking. LeBron James is the favourite at 11/8 but there may be some doubt about motivation/ ability to vote. Katie Taylor at 11/4 has the potential advantage of a higher proportion of her fans being UK residents and is worth a saver.

* 0.5pts Khabib Nurmagomedov 8/1 Betfair Sportsbook/ Paddy Power

* 0.25pts Katie Taylor 11/4 Betfair Sportsbook/ Paddy Power

I’ll add any further thoughts in the comments between now and Sunday if there are any developments or bits of value of note. Please also feel free to comment on how things may pan out.

The start of this year seemed very different with Dina Asher-Smith and Kane at top of the betting. Here’s a look at some of the lowest prices traded on Betfair in 2020: Rashford 1.6, Fury 1.7, Henderson 6.0, Asher-Smith 9.0, Dettori 12, Kane 12, Johnson-Thompson 18.5.

Let’s see how we go – a Hamilton, O’Sullivan or Henderson win should see a profit. It’s great that we’ve actually got a show to bet on. My guess for fun at the most likely top 3: Hamilton – O’Sullivan – Doyle.

Rocket Ron


An incredible day at the world snooker championships ended yesterday evening with Ronnie O’Sullivan chinning Mark Selby on the line to win their semi final 17-16. He plays Kyren Wilson in the final starting today at 1.30 pm, where he is the 3/10 favourite.

Ronnie was trailing 16-14 but went on to rattle off three frames in a row in swashbuckling style.

He’s now got a great chance to win his sixth world title to go just one behind Stephen Hendry. In terms of career ranking titles he’d go one ahead of the Scot to a record 37.

The Rocket is a hugely popular character amongst snooker fans with his quickfire play and unusual brand of charisma.

He burst on the scene as a teenager in the 90s, instantly becoming a favourite, and to many he’s the greatest snooker player of all time.

But he’s never even made the SPOTY shortlist. Surely this would change with victory on Sunday (assuming SPOTY goes ahead), particularly in a year with limited sporting stories.

There would be strong motivation to vote for Ronnie amongst his army of fans (and potentially multiple times) with an element of wanting to reward him for his achievements in the sport throughout his career.

Followers of the site are already covered on Lewis Hamilton at bigger prices. With the potential for O’Sullivan to out poll him and go favourite, he should also be added to the book. A cheap cover can be made on Wilson to win the title.

* 2.5 pts Ronnie O’Sullivan 5/1 William Hill, Bet 365, Betfred

* 0.75 pts Kyren Wilson to win the world championship 13/5 Paddy Power, Betfred, Betway

Let’s hope SPOTY gets the green light this year. If it doesn’t go ahead all SPOTY stakes should be refunded.

the 2020 market leaders


Here we are then. Sport is gradually coming back but we don’t know if SPOTY will go ahead this year. Back in May, BBC Sport said it will make a decision later in the summer. As the world comes round to a ‘new normal’, it may be that a SPOTY of some form does go ahead. Who knows when things will be fully like they were before and plenty of sport should hopefully have taken place by December, albeit without this year’s blockbuster events.

For the last few years SPOTY has taken place on the Sunday night after the Strictly final on the Saturday. With the latter now slated for 19 December it could be that any SPOTY is on the 20th. This is all just guess work.

Betting wise, if SPOTY 2020 doesn’t go ahead, all stakes should be refunded by bookies and the exchange markets voided. So we might as well have a look at the odds.

Tyson Fury remains a worthy favourite at 6/4 after he beat Deontay Wilder in February. The Gypsy King has never been more popular. Fury-Wilder III is lined up and there is talk this could land on Saturday 19 December. It’s hard to be confident with boxing scheduling at the best of times but that slot could be a sweet spot for SPOTY voting. The negatives for Fury are that these Wilder fights are nothing new and there is the ultimate showdown with Anthony Joshua due for 2021.

All the talk in the last month has been about Marcus Rashford (5/2, 2/1 general) and his campaign leading to a government u-turn on providing free school meals through the summer. Rashford has a huge following and, if he made the shortlist and the vote was tomorrow, he would likely win by some way. The criteria the panel use to decide who is on the shortlist is supposed to reflect UK sporting achievement, so there is a fair chance others would be ahead of him on this count. Man United have chances to win the FA Cup (9/2) and the Europa League (11/4) though. He has cut through more than any sportsperson this year and you can never rule out a panel wanting to include him. Is there be a fair chance he is acknowledged in the show away from the main award, especially if his club ends up trophy-less?

Jordan Henderson (10/1) is one footballer who should be ahead of Rashford on sporting achievement having captained Liverpool to their first title in 30 years. He’s around 11/4 to win PFA player of the year and also has a chance to win the football writers’ player of the year. But doubts remain in general about how well footballers poll on the night.

The Formula 1 season starts this weekend, with a rejigged schedule. At the moment only 8 races (the minimum number of races required for a season to be considered complete) have been announced, in a condensed run of races ending with the Italian grand prix on 6 September. F1 hopes to schedule more races (15-18 in total) and is confident of ending the season in Abu Dhabi. It currently aims for this to be in December.

Lewis Hamilton is the 4/7 favourite for the title. While it is unclear quite how the F1 season will end up looking, I think the SPOTY stalwart looks the best value (14/1, 12/1 general) at this stage. He has finished second the last two years, having beaten Dina Asher-Smith and Harry Kane, so remains popular. If he won the F1 title this year he would join Michael Schumacher as joint top all-time with seven in total.

A December end to the season could be good timing. Another potential positive for the Mercedes veteran is that he has been in the news speaking out for racial equality, setting up his commission, and that could continue to strike a chord.

Overall, with enough doubts about the rest of the field, and subject to caveats surrounding the unpredictability of the sporting schedule, the health of those involved and whether anyone actually cares about sport anymore, Hamilton’s price looks big enough to be a bet. For those wanting a bit of cover, his main F1 challengers can be backed for the title. The hope is that a Hamilton championship would see his SPOTY odds crash.

Other potential players to keep an eye on this year could be Ronnie O’Sullivan, Frankie Dettori and Chris Froome.

* 1pt Lewis Hamilton 14/1 Sky Bet, 12/1 William Hill, Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook

* 0.4pts Verstappen 4/1 general; 0.1 pts Bottas 9/1 Bet 365, Paddy Power; 0.1 pts Leclerc Bet 365 9/1, 15/2 Ladbrokes/ Coral; 0.1 pts Vettel Bet 365 18/1, 14/1 general all for the F1 title.

What do you reckon? Please feel free to comment if you’ve any thoughts on the year that may not be.

SPOTY 2019 preview


After last year’s break from the norm when the shortlist was named on SPOTY night, the BBC reverted to its traditional reveal three weeks out from the show. This took me by surprise, as did the inclusion of Raheem Sterling (22/1) and Alun Wyn Jones (22/1), alongside the expected names of Ben Stokes (1/6 fav), Dina Asher-Smith (12/1), Lewis Hamilton (25/1) and Katarina Johnson-Thompson (80/1). Details of their achievements this year are on the BBC site. The show is on the evening of Sunday 15 December.

The write-up for Sterling noted that, ‘ is his rise to become an unofficial spokesman for a generation of footballers on race, class, society and the media that has people asking whether Sterling is the most important sportsperson in Britain right now’. This showed that it was the mix of social and sporting achievement that secured his nomination, a combination not normally seen in the shortlist for the main award. When including non-sporting factors though it does complicate the selection process. For example, it could be argued, particularly if the panel was keen to continue to promote female sports, that Lucy Bronze may have deserved a place on the shortlist based on sporting achievement (Champions League winner, Silver Ball in the world cup, 2nd in Ballon D’or).

Of course the key question for betting purposes is how well will Sterling poll. At this stage there doesn’t look to be too much evidence that his important stance against racism will translate into a flood of votes. It may be that support gathers momentum in the days leading up to the show and will be something to keep an eye on.

Alun Wyn Jones was the other surprise and the Welsh vote always has to be respected. There is a long tradition of the Welsh getting behind their heroes – last year Geraint Thomas added to relatively recent SPOTYs Joe Calzaghe and Ryan Giggs. And of a similar profile to Wyn Jones was Leigh Halfpenny, runner-up to Andy Murray in 2013 at a big price. The power of this vote could be underestimated and kick in on the night, although there may be a limit to high it could go – it’s worth bearing in mind that Halfpenny’s 66,000 votes is below average for 2nd place.

Anyway.. Stokes looks nailed on. His two innings six weeks apart this summer to help England win the world cup and keep the Ashes alive at Headlingley will always be remembered. Both were absorbing occasions where the stakes couldn’t have been higher. I’ve not seen sporting drama quite like it.

Unfortunately for bettors it leaves the market somewhat dead compared to other years. Followers of the advice on this site have a minor interest in Stokes at 50/1 pre-world cup final so are positioned for a small profit on the year.

Trying to predict who will finish second and third is something I’m not finding straight-forward and have low confidence in. Asher-Smith with her gold and two silvers at the world championships is ahead of Johnson-Thompson that is for sure. But it is difficult to guess just how much better she will poll compared to last year’s 4th behind Thomas, Hamilton and Harry Kane. Her profile is increasing year on year so she should do fairly well.

While he offers nothing new, and it bores me to say it, with doubts about how all will fare bar Stokes, it may be worth a small bet on Hamilton in the ‘without Stokes’ and top 3 markets. He always has a solid base of support and it may be enough. He also finished 2nd behind Stokes in the Sports Journalism Awards.

The World Sport Star (WSS) and Greatest Sporting Moment (GSM) shortlists have also been announced. There’s is only a small window until 9am Friday 6 December to vote for these (online, one vote per person, from UK only). I was holding out for more bookies to price these up like last year but unfortunately it seems Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power are on their own (these markets should close when the vote closes on the 6th). The fancy prices have gone but the 3/1 for Eliud Kipchoge may still represent some value given the uniqueness of his success in going under 2 hours for the marathon, albeit in contrived circumstances with the assistance of pacemakers.

GSM looks to be between the two cricket contenders. A world cup win for England in a major sport is a rarity so looks very strong. A poll in a tweet from @englandcricket showed 69% choosing the world cup final over 31% for Headingley.

* 0.25 pt win Lewis Hamilton without Stokes 5/1 Bet365 9/2 Ladbrokes / Coral

* 0.5 pt win Lewis Hamilton top 3 11/8 Bet365 6/5 Sky Bet

* 1 pt win Eliud Kipchoge World Sport Star 3/1 Betfair Sportsbook / Paddy Power

* 2.5 pt win Jos Buttler breaks the stumps to seal world cup victory 8/11 Betfair Sportsbook / Paddy Power

I’ll post again if any further markets or value appear between now and the 15th. If you’ve any thoughts, particularly on that battle for 2nd and 3rd, please feel free to comment.





‘adverse analytical finding’ – SPOTY 2017 show preview

Waking up on Wednesday morning to the news that Chris Froome had failed a drugs test had me reaching for a few puffs of the old Salbutamol myself.

Ever since the shortlist was announced I’d become increasingly confident Froome would be in the top 3, with a fair chance of beating Lewis Hamilton to second and even with a squeak of winning the whole thing. His odds on top 3 had gone from 5/6 to 8/15 and ‘without AJ’ from 4/1 to 3/1 and lower. It was building up into quite a bet that suddenly became virtually worthless as his odds rightly drifted dramatically.

It’s always at the back of your mind some sort of scandal like this could happen, but for it to involve Team Sky and Froome after all that’s gone before, and in SPOTY week, was a bit of a shocker.

In terms of eking out some profit this year, the news has this site like:

There are reports that, in the video link-up with Froome during his segment on the show tomorrow, the BBC presenter will be asking about the test result in the Vuelta. There’s every chance over the coming months that he will be stripped of the title and banned. It’s difficult to imagine Froome’s support not being significantly reduced on the night.

Joshua has shortened into a best-priced 1/7 and will appeal as a feel-good alternative to those such as Hamilton, Froome and Mo Farah who have been dogged by controversies. He will also be the only one of those in attendance in the studio.

Hamilton is a best priced 2/5 to finish best of the rest and in a weak year he should get enough support from his loyal fan base to get 2nd but it’s not a certainty.

The other place in the top 3 is up for grabs.

The question is how motivated will Spurs fans be to pick up the phone for Harry Kane. He’s had a great year but without Tottenham winning something there must be doubts about his support translating to votes.

Farah actually has a chance still but momentum appears to be building behind Jonathan Rea. He’s been on the Northern Ireland radio circuit this weekend and various figures in the motorcycling world are right behind him. He’s been doing press interviews, including one in The Times, and appears a genuine, easy to vote for role model.

I’m going for Joshua-Hamilton-Rea as the one-two-three and for fun a full prediction of:

  1. Joshua
  2. Hamilton
  3. Rea
  4. Farah
  5. Kane
  6. Froome
  7. Peacock
  8. Peaty
  9. Shrubsole
  10. Konta
  11. Walkdon
  12. Christie

Coral / Ladbrokes have a market up on the Joshua vote share: under 20% 20/1, 20-30% 5/2, 30-40% 6/4, 40-50% 9/4, over 50% 8/1. The last winner to get over 40% was Andy Murray after his first Wimbledon win in 2013. With AJ’s events being pay-per-view and the Klitschko fight being way back in April there are reasons to think a very wide margin victory is unlikely even after the Froome news.


* 3 pts Jonathan Rea top 3 13/8 Coral / Ladbrokes (7/4 Unibet)

* 0.5 pts Anthony Joshua vote share 20-30% 5/2 Coral / Ladbrokes

* 0.5 pts Anthony Joshua vote share 30-40% 6/4 Coral / Ladbrokes

And finally it’s always interesting to have a look at some of the lowest outright prices on Betfair over the course of the year. Here are some of the highlights:

Jermain Defoe 5.0, Murray 4.0, Ben Ainslie 6.4, Konta 4.0, Farah 5.5, Hamilton 6.8, Froome 8.2, Peaty 16, Shrubsole 27.0

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?


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


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