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Why The United Kingdom Is Suddenly The Bookies Favourite For Eurovision Written by on December 21, 2023 | 1 Comment

The United Kingdom are currently the bookmakers favourites to win the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest… but it’s December. Ben Robertson explains these early season Eurovision betting markets and why Olly Alexander’s announcement has moved the United Kingdom to favourite status. 

One can gamble on the next year’s Eurovision Song Contest today. In fact, one could have placed a bet on your favourite Eurovision nation months ago; the first odds for 2024 were listed even before we knew what city Sweden would be holding this extravaganza in.

The casual viewer might perhaps anticipate that these early season odds, when no songs or artists are known, would have all of the countries at roughly equal winning probabilities. Alas that is not the case. Such are the differing likelihoods of song quality, production levels, budget and so on that even these early odds see huge differences between competing broadcasters. Those early odds from the summer of 2023 saw nations like Ukraine, Sweden and Italy, not just our most recent winners but very consistent scoring nations, at the top of the odds. Nations like San Marino, Georgia and Montenegro were offered at odds over ten times more than those perennial big hitters.

One other country has joined this pack of favourites in recent months, and that is Israel. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on Israel on October 7th, gamblers reacted by placing money on Israel to win the Eurovision Song Contest, and for a short window, Israel was the favourite to win Eurovision 2024. As of December 20th, 38% of all money matched on the Betfair Exchange’s Eurovision market has been made for or against an Israeli victory. As the world of Eurovision seeps into the geopolitical again, gamblers will likely be cautious about the impacts of that on the scoreboard, especially after Ukraine’s recent televote landslide in 2022.

Thinking About The Word Risk

However, while even today it is possible to place a bet on a nation to win Eurovision 2024, the amount of money in the Eurovision betting markets is low. As of December 20th in total roughly £10,000 has been matched on the Betfair Exchange, a total that will likely be in the region of a few million by the time the Grand Final rolls around in May. Because the season is young and so much is unknown about the songs and acts going to Eurovision, these early betting markets are very cautious. While odds are posted for the 2024 season, most bookmakers will have very large overrounds (more overround, more profit for the bookmaker, assuming bets are placed equally) at this point in the season to minimise their risk, and also the amount of money bookmakers will accept as stakes on each betting outcome is likely a magnitude less compared to May.

In the Eurovision community we often discuss how odds can predict success or not. While betting odds can be a very good proxy of success (and one that is generally increasingly more accurate the closer we are to the final) in reality betting odds are more a measure of risk, and how much risk exists on a certain outcome being given. Few wish to risk significant sums of money against the likelihood of a Ukrainian or Israeli victory in these times, so they are likely to stay close to the top of the odds until further information on their acts are known.

It also requires a relatively small amount of money placed in the market to move the odds so early in the season. When the star-sudded list of Sanremo artists was revealed earlier this month, I placed a bet on Italy to win with the last remaining £10 on the Betfair Exchange at roughly 11.5. That small transaction was enough to move Italy from 4th to 3rd on the Eurovision World odds tracker that same day.

However, the announcement that Olly Alexander was the United Kingdom’s representative for the Eurovision Song Contest sent the odds on the United Kingdom tumbling to become the shortest price of all the participating nations. Here is why.

After Waiting Years and Years

One has to go back until the 2011 announcement of Blue as the entrant from the United Kingdom for a time when a UK representative was the favourite to win the Eurovision Song Contest. The announcement of Olly Alexander is arguably the biggest name the BBC has had to represent them since their adventures in Germany, where Blue finished in 11th place. Olly Alexander has been the frontman for the band Years and Years, which in the past decade has two albums topping the UK charts and five singles reaching the top ten. In addition to his musical hit collection, Olly is well known for his acting work, and in 2022, he was nominated for the Best Actor award in the British Academy Television Awards for his role in ‘It’s a Sin’.

At this pre-Christmas point in the Eurovision season, there are currently eight acts already known that are taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest. Such is the scale of Olly Alexander’s previous hit collection that his almost seven million monthly listener figures on Spotify are more than the other announced acts already confirmed combined. This is different than those times of the Blue and Bonnie Tyler for the United Kingdom; this is a 33-year-old still with modern music following through his veins. With his Eurovision entry being timed alongside his rebrand using his name (rather than as Years and Years, which he retained when the band parted ways in 2021), there is a feeling that this is a British Eurovision act looking to do something new, rather than rehash the old.

The feeling is amplified when we see who Olly Alexander works with for his 2024 effort. Anticipation was high even before the big-name artist because of the recent track records from the BBC team behind the Eurovision Song Contest. The BBC has evolved massively from bringing staging concepts of two giant trumpets on stage to a team that brings never-before-seen technological ideas even to Junior Eurovision. In the four UK Eurovision participations since James Newman performed in Rotterdam, the UK has three top-five placings.

Furthermore, the song itself promises to be a banger. Information isn’t detailed yet, but Danny L Harle has been confirmed as one of the team behind the UK Eurovision entry, a producer on the rise internationally and one of the names behind Dua Lipa’s most recent single, ‘Houdini’. We know Olly Alexander’s Eurovision entry will be electronic and dance, and Danny L Harle is arguably the name in the music scene you want on a track like that today.

Olly Alexander isn’t just a big name for the UK; he’s arguably working with the best in the business.

The United Kingdom’s History With Eurovision Odds

There are reasons to be cautious with this favourite status being a reason to celebrate for fans of the United Kingdom wanting Eurovision to come home once more. Firstly, let’s remember that the best odds at the time of writing on a United Kingdom victory are 8.4. Gambling at those odds implies that the expected likelihood of a UK victory is just shy of 12%. Whoever the eventual favourite to win Eurovision has been, for all records that I can find, has been shorter priced than this once all the songs are known. Yes, the expectations and anticipation for the United Kingdom are high, but there are still too many unknowns at play as we continue down this topsy-turvy journey to May.

It is also very easy to get caught up in a British narrative when looking at betting odds. People will be moaning how the UK was well into mid-table in the odds of winning Eurovision on the day of the 2023 Eurovision Grand Final and ended up placing second last. Such complaining is not justified, the combination of a hit pop song, host country crowd and last placed draw meant there was always more risk of this connecting with viewers across Europe than some of the others that ultimately placed higher.

However, there is also another reason for this effect. When it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest there is no denying that the biggest gambling market is a British one. The knock-on effect of this is that bookmakers will be a touch more cautious setting big odds on a British success, knowing there is likely to be more money placed on a British song than most of the other competing nations, should there be strong momentum behind it.

And you don’t get more moments of momentum than an announcement on Saturday night primetime, during the final of Strictly Come Dancing. Some British based bookmakers even removed the option to bet on the United Kingdom in the aftermath of that announcement, waiting for the exchange markets to settle before placing the United Kingdom as bookies favourites a few hours later.

And settled they have done, for the few days after the announcement, the as of yet unknown entry from Olly Alexander has been trading at single figures on the Betfair Exchange, a claim which no other participating country can take as of this moment in time.

We’re On A Rollercoaster

There is a long, long way to go in the rollercoaster that is the betting odds for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, arguably one of the most unique betting markets that exists. Few betting markets have such wild swings as the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest does. In years gone by, we have seen scenarios where the expected National Final winner didn’t, moving Poland from heavy favourite to rank outsider in the space of seconds in 2016. We live in a world where even the smallest piece of information can move the market, and last year’s photographs of La Zarra’s rehearsal saw the odds offered on France halve as the community was impressed by the stills they saw.

Being favourite in December does not mean the UK is on track to victory. But the combination of a popular singer, top tier producer, and a BBC team delivering quality means few are willing to take any risk against them doing well. There are many more bumps in the road ahead for British Eurovision fans, but regardless of the end result one should be proud that Eurovision in the United Kingdom is of such powerhouse expectations that bookmakers feel the need to install them as favourites. We live in a world where even the smallest movements in the Eurovision betting odds can and are communicated through the Eurovision community, and the hype surrounding them will do no harm for wherever the UK finishes in Malmö.

If forced to take a stance, is there a 12% chance that the United Kingdom could actually win the Eurovision Song Contest in May? Perhaps that’s a touch too optimistic, too swayed by the British betting bias, too early without enough information about the song to go in and say that’s good betting value.

But few are willing to risk large chunks of their own currency on it not happening, and therefore the United Kingdom are the legitimate bookies favourites to win the Eurovision Song Contest today. Time to ride the rollercoaster all the way to Malmö.

In addition to writing for ESC Insight, Ben Robertson guests on the BetEurovision Podcast, providing weekly updates and opinions on the Eurovision Song Contest betting markets from January to May. The new season is set to start in the first week of January, more information will be posted on and on via @bet_eurovision

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended 23 National Finals in the world of Eurovision. With that experience behind him he writes for ESC Insight with his analysis and opinions about anything and everything Eurovision Song Contest that is worth telling.

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One response to “Why The United Kingdom Is Suddenly The Bookies Favourite For Eurovision”

  1. Ben Cook says:

    Bit unfair to put Blue in the same category as Bonnie. Lee Ryan was only 28 in 2011 and it had only been 6 years since Blue’s last hit, with them all having had solo hits in the meantime. It’ll actually have been 6 years since Olly’s had a UK top 10 hit or any hit to speak of on the continent. It probably feels different because we’re all a bit older and time is passing quicker! And granted, Olly has kept his profile up domestically in other ways.

    But I wouldn’t cast him as some sort of superstar. For many Europeans he’ll be that guy who did that song King they quite liked in 2015. Not that he’s a bad choice anyway – just that he has more in common with Blue than some might think. I’m actually more excited that Danny L Harle is involved.

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