what next? a look at the dangers to Murray

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Andy Murray winning the Wimbledon title for the second time has seen him go clear favourite for SPOTY. He’s around evens with the bookies but much more uneasy on the exchanges – his price having drifted from around 2.0 shortly after match point yesterday, to nearer 3.0 this evening.

The reason for the doubt is obvious – it’s an Olympic year and Murray is still a very long way out from home. Added to this is the stat that no-one has ever gone back-to-back SPOTY, or won it three times in total. There is some concern too that Murray already won the award on the back of his first Wimbledon win in 2013, and there would be much less reason to vote for that achievement this time round.

While going clear so early could easily see him overhauled by a late challenger, Muzz will still likely be very much in the limelight himself. He has said he is focussed on defending his 2012 Olympic gold in the Rio singles and there is also the possibility of him playing doubles (he won silver with Laura Robson in London). He will also be a strong second favourite behind Novak Djokovic for the US Open which concludes in early September. So he has a fair chance to reinforce his credentials in these events.

It’s a bit of a tricky one to weigh up at this stage. Followers of the site are in a good position on Murray (and have Gareth Bale too, 2nd favourite on Betfair) but it will be important to keep an eye out for challengers who could well upset the current favourite on the night in December.

Barring Bale, the market has Anthony Joshua, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Jamie Vardy, Chris Froome, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Mo Farah in descending order of likelihood to win.

I would be very surprised if Froome or Farah could somehow win having fallen well short previously. I don’t think Froome has a wide enough appeal and there are numerous other cyclists in the mix. Mo’s achievements are up there with any athlete but he’s very exposed now and I’m not sure what will change this time round to see him get enough votes. There are also plenty of drugs related stories which continue to shadow the whole of athletics.

I think Vardy will struggle to make the shortlist as it may be that the BBC thinks Leicester City Team of the Year is sufficient recognition for their sensational title win in May. Plus Bale has arguably done more in the eyes of shortlist compilers in winning the Champions League and spearheading Wales to the Euro semis.

No-one has been on the SPOTY podium more than Jess and again she can’t be ignored this time round. I often think there is an element of a lifetime achievement type recognition when people vote for a SPOTY winner and she should receive a large backing if she wins gold, more probably than KJT would. Both heptathletes have a strong opponent to overcome first though in Brianne Theisen-Eaton who is 2/1 (Jess is 13/8 fav and KJT 9/4).

The heptathlon is sure to be a market mover and Jess in particular has to be monitored. I do have some nagging doubts about the popularity of all track and field athletes though these days – they just don’t seem to have the same appeal to the public as in days gone by. 

Joshua is an interesting one. All going to plan for the rest of the year, he looks certain to be on the shortlist, having become world heavyweight champion earlier in 2016. He’s very popular and seems on the cusp of crossing over into the mainstream. There’s a lot going on in boxing at the moment though and if Tyson Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko (if they do eventually get their rematch on this year) it would muddy the waters somewhat. So too would a scheduling of a Fury/ Klitschko v Joshua match up to come in 2017. Maybe viewers would want to wait to see what happens in 2017 before voting for the 2016 AJ. 

Outside these, the Olympics as a whole is bound to create a whole host of stories that should capture the imagination – with any multiple gold medal winner in with a shout. I’m still very interested to see how the British gymnasts get on and what sort of a following that generates – a first Olympic GB gold in that discipline would be an attractive story.

All that said, it’s not clear at this stage who the main challenger to Murray will be. But a challenger I’m sure there will be – it’s just making sure he or she is backed at a decent price at the right time. The Olympics, as always, is the obvious port of call and it’s not long now until it all kicks off on Friday 5 August 2016.. Please check in on the site and on Twitter for updates throughout.

 

Wales and Querrey bring market to life

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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

 

recency bias and SPOTY

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The last two SPOTYs have seen the main award collected by two men who produced the sporting goods late in the year, within weeks of the ceremony.

Both Andy Murray and Lewis Hamilton managed to turn over the long time odds-on favourites (Jessica Ennis-Hill and Rory McIlroy) when it was time to vote in December.

So what is the extent of any recency bias when it comes to SPOTY votes?

I thought it might be of some interest to look at all the SPOTY podium finishes since 1980. I split the timing of all the performances linked to those podium places into three – spring (start of the year up until the end of May), summer (June, July, August) and autumn (September onwards).

Sometimes there would be more than one stand-out performance in the year from an individual (for example, Mark Cavendish won the green jersey in the Tour De France in the summer and then the World Championship road race in autumn). In those cases I recorded that as the time of the later performance (it is often the latter one that consolidated and / or established the merit of that contender’s year when it came to votes).

Here’s how it looks for each decade:

podiums

Just over half of the podium finishes were from summer performances, 28% from autumn and 20% from spring. From 1990 onwards, 90% of all podium performances took place after spring.

Since 1980 there were six (Robin Cousins, Torvill and Dean, Nick Faldo, Steve Davis, Ryan Giggs, Tony McCoy) whose spring performances were such that they saw off all challengers over the rest of the year to be crowned winners. This compares with 16 winners from summer and 11 from autumn.

It is worth noting that spring’s podium showings are quite strongly influenced by the popularity of snooker and figure skating in the 1980s (with their major competitions traditionally early in the year). Steve Davis, for example, popped up six times in the decade.

So it does perhaps look difficult, especially from the 1990s, to do well from an early slot, with summer the best and autumn next.

But maybe it’s just that the summer simply has the most events where worthy performances are more likely to take place (and maybe autumn has more than spring). There is certainly some truth in this as summer is full of big occasions, including the Olympics – the biggest of them all.

And maybe the big summer (and autumn) performances would have done just as well in SPOTY terms if they had taken place in spring.

I guess one way to try to imagine the effect of any recency bias might be to think about SPOTY winners and what would have happened if their performances had happened early in the year. I think most would agree that Murray and Hamilton would have received a good deal fewer votes in the last couple of years if their performances hadn’t taken place when very fresh in the memory at the time of voting.

The extent of the effect can never be known for sure. But it’s worth pondering, particularly as Jamie Vardy has now gone clear SPOTY favourite..

 

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

 

 

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