Rocket Launcher

Dec 16, 2020 by

Rocket Launcher

Despite Covid wreaking havoc with the sporting year, SPOTY 2020 has been a lively market to trade on Betfair over the last 12 months.

The ‘will he, won’t he?’ saga of Marcus Rashford’s potential inclusion on the shortlist proved a boon for layers who stood firm in their belief the BBC’s prestigious trophy would, as has always been the case, be awarded for sporting achievement, not charity work.

After Tyson Fury beat Deontay Wilder to become WBC heavyweight champion in February he went very short in the market and was looking hard to beat as the sporting summer ended up heavily curtailed due to lockdown. But then in August Ronnie O’Sullivan won a dramatic, 6th snooker world championship and since then Lewis Hamilton has won his seventh Formula 1 world title, equalling Michael Schumacher.

This looked like the big 3 to focus on only for Fury to take to Twitter recently and request being taken off the shortlist and ask his fans not to vote for him. This was even followed up with a threat of legal action against the BBC but Fury will remain on the list while we all await the next instalment in this saga which may arrive on Saturday evening, on the eve of the SPOTY 2020 ceremony, when he will appear on ITV’s The Jonathan Ross Show.

We knew it was likely to be a shortlist of 6 once more, and the other 3 names added turned out to be England test cricketer Stuart Broad, who went past the milestone of 500 test wickets back in the summer, Liverpool F.C. captain Jordan Henderson, who led the club to a first league title in 30 years, and record-breaking Flat jockey Hollie Doyle who, among a series of notable achievements in the saddle, became the first female jockey to ride a 5-timer at Windsor in August.

Hamilton trades at 1.32 on Betfair at time of posting and will clearly be hard to beat. The last polling figure we have for Hamilton is 2017 when he got 60k votes. 2018 was an abortive year for SPOTY when the BBC made the terrible decision of only announcing the shortlisted 6 on the night itself, no doubt leading to the lowest voter turnout ever. Hamilton came 2nd behind Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, with Harry Kane in 3rd.

Winning a sixth world title at the age of 44, his first since 2013, also means O’Sullivan has a ‘lifetime achievement’ angle working for him

Last year Ben Stokes won with Hamilton in 2nd and Dina Asher-Smith 3rd. When Hamilton last won SPOTY back in 2014 he got 210k votes. The issue is, since then SPOTY has suffered a big decline in voter engagement. There is now much more voter apathy for the simple reason the BBC has turned the show into an agenda-driven exercise, to the detriment of giving sports fans what they really want and used to love about the night – a highlights reel of the sporting year.

We know Hamilton will get a tried and tested, die-hard F1 fan vote. The big question with Hamilton is, how many votes he will earn among general sports fans and SPOTY voters. In his favour, a Hamilton win suits the BLM narrative and plays perfectly to the BBC’s Woke stance, so it looks safe to expect pimp treatment for Hamilton on Sunday night whereas Fury’s anti-SPOTY stance may well see him buried in the edit.

LFC fans have been unable to attend matches during lockdown and this will be a chance for them to show their support not only for Henderson but for the club, for Klopp, and for a 1st league title since 1990

Thinking about the casual SPOTY voter, this is where Ronnie O’Sullivan may hold an advantage. Like Fury, O’Sullivan is a maverick, says what he thinks, and isn’t afraid of causing controversy but he is much more widely loved by the British public compared to Hamilton.

You also sense there is big motivation from the snooker community to rally behind Ronnie as this is a first shortlisting for not only him but any snooker player going back to the days of Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis, and 30 years of the sport being overlooked. Winning a sixth world title at the age of 44, his first since 2013, also means he has a ‘lifetime achievement’ angle working for him, as this feels like long overdue recognition.

The hardest 1 to assess on the shortlist is Jordan Henderson. Back in 2009 we saw Man Utd fans get behind Ryan Giggs on a massive scale, earning him 152k votes which was enough for him to win that year’s SPOTY. LFC fans have been unable to attend matches during lockdown and this will be a chance for them to show their support not only for Henderson but for the club, for Klopp, and for a 1st league title since 1990. Liverpool and Man Utd stand alone as having the biggest and most partisan fanbases in the country. It’s just a question of how motivated the LFC fans will be to vote for Henderson without a tannoy man at Anfield to help rally support.

Pioneering female Flat jockey Hollie Doyle is this year’s ‘campaign’ dark horse, and the horse racing world will try and ramp up support for her in the coming days. Also in her favour, she is the only female on the shortlist of 6 and the BBC being the BBC she looks assured of a strong segment on Sunday night to give her as much of a leg up as possible in the vote. Jump jockey AP McCoy won SPOTY in 2010 and we have seen a strong vote emanating from the equestrian world before with Nick Skelton placing 3rd in 2016.

Pioneering female Flat jockey Hollie Doyle is this year’s ‘campaign’ dark horse, and the horse racing world will try and ramp up support for her in the coming days

In summary, the battle for top 3 is the keenest it has been in many a year and the only one you can confidently dismiss is Broad. It’s hard to know how much of a dent Fury’s protestations will make on his vote, it is equally difficult to get a handle on the potential depth of Henderson’s support, and if these 2 both fall short of expectations Doyle looks set to take advantage.

Hamilton is going to be hard to beat but if there is one who looks capable of defeating him it is O’Sullivan, and a price at time of posting of 9.6 on Betfair probably underestimates his chance. The safer proposition is to back him to finish top 2, available at 5-4 with Betfred, or 11-8 in the w/o Hamilton market, available with Skybet. The 1st Hamilton 2nd O’Sullivan straight forecast is also available with the latter firm at 15-8.

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