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

 

 

SPOTY 2015 review

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Andy Murray was a deserving winner and landed a spotybet gamble having been advised at 16s, 14s and 9s at various points throughout the year.

The final voting figures were:

Andy Murray 361,446 votes
Kevin Sinfield 278,353
Jessica Ennis-Hill 79,898
Tyson Fury 72,330
Lewis Hamilton 48,379
Chris Froome 39,007
Mo Farah 31,311
Max Whitlock 25,925
Greg Rutherford 23,492
Lizzie Armitstead 22,356
Adam Peaty 13,738
Lucy Bronze 13,236

The figures show Kevin Sinfield had huge support – 278,353 would have been enough to win it last year. He landed a big 66/1 each way payout at a third of the odds for 2nd.

Tyson Fury had a good edit in the show and nearly toppled Jess for 3rd.

In my preview earlier it looks as though I predicted (guessed!) the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 – I got Lucy a bit wrong though!

It’s been a very profitable year and I hope readers managed to make a good few pounds. I’ll tally up and post the 2015 total P&L figures soon. Hopefully 2016 will provide plenty of opportunities too.

 

SPOTY 2015 show preview

Jessica Ennis-Hill 1.58, Lewis Hamilton 3.0, AP McCoy 3.5, Chris Froome 4.0, Mo Farah 7.8

Those are the lowest prices that these contenders have traded at during the year and with Andy Murray and Jess having been decent odds for long periods it has been a good year for trading. AP McCoy in particular seemed a very short price. He always appeared more likely to pick up the Lifetime Achievement award and will do so later on tonight.

The big talking point since the shortlist was announced three weeks ago has been the inclusion of Tyson Fury. His controversial views have been click-bait for much of the media and the petition for the BBC to remove him has matched the ‘no airstrikes in Syria’ petition for popularity.

How he’ll fare tonight seems a bit tricky to call. Maybe some parts of the population will be more motivated to vote for him than if he hadn’t received such publicity. That said, he remains someone who most people are relatively unfamiliar with and certainly doesn’t have the wide-ranging popularity of Muzz and Jess.

Normally on the day of SPOTY there is a poll that appears in the Sunday Times. This has been pretty accurate but alas there was no sign of it today. Other polls, in particular the Telegraph’s (which was accurate last year), have shown Murray well ahead. It all looks set up for him to collect the award (now trading at around 1.65) and he will be in Belfast tonight rather than his training camp in Miami where he is usually based at this time of year.

On the night it’s easy to imagine Muzza’s VT being the most impressive, with his lob shot on match point to clinch the Davis Cup final a standout single moment for British sports stars in 2015.

I get the feeling Jess’s achievements (winning gold in the heptathlon at the Worlds) this year have not really registered with the public. Athletics is at a low ebb. But Jess is very popular (with three SPOTY places previously) and her comeback to win after giving birth to Reggie last year should see an automatic boost to votes – particularly if, as expected, that angle is played up in the coverage tonight.

Rugby league legend Kevin Sinfield is subject of a social media campaign to win the award and has to be respected with such support.

Anyone following the advice on this site is in a strong position with all of Murray, Ennis-Hill and Sinfield covered at big prices. Hamilton is also covered (at shorter prices) and the petrol head support cannot be entirely discounted.

Most of the value in the markets has been snapped up already but for fun my guess for the 1-12 is:

  1. Murray
  2. Sinfield
  3. Ennis
  4. Fury
  5. Hamilton
  6. Froome
  7. Farah
  8. Bronze
  9. Rutherford
  10. Whitlock
  11. Armitstead
  12. Peaty

Team of the year has Britain’s Davis Cup team as 1/12 favourites. That seems very short given that Murray almost singlehandedly was responsible. The BBC may want to spread the love a bit more and select a different sport for the trophy. I’ve backed the women’s football team, Leeds Rhinos and the men’s gymnastics team as alternatives.

Dan Carter will pick up the Overseas award (advised on the site at 3/1). The Coach (which could also be Davis Cup related with Leon Smith in contention), Young SPOTY, Unsung and Helen Rollason awards will also be presented.

I’ve personally put a little cash on Fury just in case and some savers to balance the spotybet books may be sensible as it is a bit unpredictable how far he could go:

* 0.5 pt win Tyson Fury 18/1 Coral

* 0.5 pt Fury 2nd place 9/1 Winner, Titan 7/1 Ladbrokes

* 0.5 pts Murray-Fury forecast around 12.0 on Betfair 10/1 Skybet

* 1.5 pts Fury 3rd place 5/1 Winner, Titan 7/2 Ladbrokes

The full list of the year’s selections can be found here.

Overall, the ideal finishing position for me would be Murray-Sinfield-Hamilton. Not long to go now and best of luck if having a bet.

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.

 

saver on Rooney

* 1.5 pts win Wayne Rooney 20/1 William Hill, 18/1 elsewhere

With all the home teams now out of the Rugby World Cup , the only real danger to the good positions on Ennis-Hill, Hamilton, Murray and Farah would perhaps be Wayne Rooney.

There’s no guarantee he’ll make the shortlist but, if he does, he is one contender who could get a lot of votes being such a big name (captained England during 100% Euros qualification campaign and broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record). I’m not quite sure how far he’d go but at 20/1 it’s worth a saver to be on the safe side.

Hamilton a big price at 9/2 ‘without Jessica Ennis-Hill’

* 1.5 pts each way Lewis Hamilton without Jessica Ennis-Hill 9/2 (1/5 odds 1,2,3) with Coral

Those following the site are in good positions with Jessica Ennis-Hill advised at around 14/1 (now odds on), Andy Murray at various prices from 9/1 to 16/1 (now 8/1) and Mo Farah 22/1 to 80/1 (now generally 12/1). Hamilton is a danger and although he may have a bit to do to win for a second successive year, he looks likely to place.

I’ve written previously here about the high number of SPOTY votes the F1 driver has polled historically and, with Murray not definite to get the Davis Cup win required and doubts about the popularity of Chris Froome, the 9/2 each way without Ennis appears particularly generous. Essentially it means a bet to nothing if Hamilton finishes in the SPOTY first four for which he would be a short price to do so and a shot at collecting at 9/2 if he wins SPOTY or finishes second to Ennis.

selection – GB Davis cup lay

* 2 pts GB Davis Cup lay around 2.35 on Betfair

This site has built up a fair bit of interest in Andy Murray for SPOTY through the year and if GB win the Davis Cup he will hopefully shorten significantly. GB possibly look a bit short to do so though (will likely play Belgium away in the final if they beat Australia this weekend) so given this, and the number of points on Murray to far, I thought it might be worth levelling things up a little.

There is annoyingly a bit of twilight zone to the Andy Murray – Davis Cup – SPOTY equation. That is if say GB win the Davis Cup but the heroics in doing so come from someone else in the team and Murray has a mediocre final. There is also a bit of a question mark over when the shortlist is announced (usually end of November) and whether it would be before (which might mean some doubt as to whether Murray would be on it) or after the final (which ends on 29 November). All this can be monitored nearer the time should GB win this weekend.

selection – Lewis Hamilton top up

* Lewis Hamilton 1.5 pts each way 7/1 William Hill, 13/2 Bet Victor, Bet365 1/4 1,2,3 (simultaneous 3pt lay on Betfair for F1 title at around 1.09)

I’ve been tempted to think that Jessica Ennis-Hill has SPOTY wrapped up barring some Andy Murray / Rugby World Cup heroics. Her closest challengers at the moment are Chris Froome and Lewis Hamilton, both around the 7/1 mark.

My feeling is that Froome will find it tricky to get on the podium. When he last won the Tour de France in 2013 he finished 6th (37,343 votes) with Mo Farah (who also won the 5k and 10k double at the Worlds that year) one of those above in 4th (51,945). Froome’s and Mo’s popularity may arguably have gone in different directions since but I’m not sure by how much and whether it would be enough to reverse those placings.

The cycling mob are often talked about as having a strong influence in SPOTY. It certainly seems to be the case with Mark Cavendish and Sir Bradley Wiggins having lifted the award in recent years. But these guys have a certain charisma and presence in the media whereas Froome (probably to his liking) doesn’t seem likely to be given so much air time or column inches in the SPOTY build-up. Cav and Wiggo also did more in their years than just their Tour achievements, having won the World Championships and Olympic Gold respectively.

I think Jess is all but guaranteed a spot on the podium with the two other spaces up for grabs. Although it looks like one of them may be sewn up too..

Looking at the historical voting figures it is quite striking how well Lewis has fared:

2007 (2nd in F1 championship) 2nd 122,649 (Calzaghe first with 177,748)
2008 (won F1 championship) 2nd 163,864 (Hoy first with 283,630)
2014 (won F1 championship) 1st 209,920

Between 2008 and 2014, incidentally, Lewis finished no better than 4th in the F1 championship. So it appears that whenever Hamilton has done something in the title race he has received a lot of votes. He’s 1.09 to win the F1 title at the moment.

The number of votes scored by the SPOTY 3rd place the last eight years has been: 99,913; 57,864; 230,444; 29,780; 62,953; 80,469; 145,924; 85,280. That’s an average of 99,077 votes. A case can be made for taking out the London Olympics inspired 2012 figure as an outlier (and even the other Olympic year of 2008 – a lot more votes are received in Olympic years) which would make the average 80,310 (69,374).

Based on these numbers it seems well worth a Hamilton each-way wager. It provides some cover in case he can overhaul Jess with hopefully a very good chance of making a small profit when placing. One negative is that no-one has won SPOTY back-to-back but this seems more to do with no-one having put together two similarly excellent performances in consecutive years.

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