With barely two weeks to go before the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2015, fans have been busy making predictions on esctoday.com’s Big Poll. But another kind of big poll, the kind run by Europe’s ‘turf accountants’, is also worth a look: the ever-fascinating bookmakers’ odds.
Like most live, competitive events, the Eurovision Song Contest has a long history with bookies. Things have changed, for sure; long-time fans of the contest will remember the days when certain things were taken-for-granted, such as the UK an almost constant fixture as favourite, and long, outsider odds on countries yet to burst into their highly successful streaks, like Greece and Turkey. But Eurovision betting is still with us, and still one of the most popular sidelines for fans today – for who wouldn’t want to use their expertise to try and make a little cash?
The important thing to remember is that, like fan polls, betting punters help to create the odds. Certainly, bookmakers make educated guesses about the chances of a song before doing the maths, but it is fan confidence (and cash) that pushes the countries further up or down the rankings. Bearing that in mind, a glance at this year’s favourites (and not-so-favourites) can be taken as a measure of confidence in a song’s chances.
2015: a three-horse race
Overwhelmingly, Sweden – a regular feature in the bookies’ favourites year on year – is the punters’ choice for 2015. Odds have shortened steadily since Måns’ Melodifestivalen win, and currently, a Swedish win would double or almost triple your stake with the majority of bookmakers. Italy trails Sweden closely, with Australia only a little way behind, although a more profitable potential win on odds of around 4-1. These three have surged ahead of the others, with Estonia lagging some way behind in fourth favourite, and odds between 7-1 and 9-1, and Finland a little further behind. Fan favourites like Slovenia are currently occupying the middle-ground between favourite and outsider. Clearly, the betting public feels it is a three-horse race this year.
Drifters and outsiders
While the direction for the top favourites is inevitably for odds to shorten, there are always the drifters, too. Israel and Belarus have both seen quite large fluctuations over the past few weeks, starting off as long shots, before shortening to as little as 25-1, and drawing back again to 100-1 with some bookmakers. It all depends on the current mood towards a song’s chances, but both might be dark horses that surge again as the contest rehearsals get under way.
It is the rehearsals, of course, which will have the next big impact on such surges and fall-backs. Expect huge shake-ups in the current standing, which are then amplified after each semifinal concludes. Austria and Netherlands, for example, could be found at 66-1 or longer odds in 2014 – before Conchita and the Common Linnets wowed the audience and sailed through their respective semifinals.
Surprises hits – and flops
Surprises are always possible; fans canny enough to spot the potential of Fly on the wings of love in 2000 walked away with a tidy profit, catching excellent odds on a largely unforeseen Danish victory weeks before the contest. And surprises go in both directions. Through overconfidence, or simply misplaced pride, songs can be pushed up the favourites list on the back of fans’ cash, and then, simply fail to perform on the night. In 2014, the UK’s Molly started the final in the top five favourites, but ended up in the low teens; in 2013, the punters highly fancied Krista’s Marry me, especially after it progressed from the semifinal – sadly for Finland (and betters hoping to cash in), the song sank in the final rankings.
What is true for Eurovision is also true for betting in general – you never know quite what will happen; expertise will only get you so far. The fun (and the danger) of betting is always that element of chance. Perhaps Portugal, on a 500-1 bet at certain bookmakers, could be quite lucrative after all…