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Blog: Proxy Wars

The latest Bet Eurovision podcast not only saw myself get into a full on Keegan-esque rant but it also drew some attention, in favour or against, from some of our listeners.

I'm writing this while on my way to the United Kingdom for this daft Song Contest once more. It will, fun fact, be the first ESC since 2017 where I am accredited, on site, to cover the show for ESC Insight. Obviously my main "work" is through that site for the next fortnight.

A fun fact too is that, despite this flight being the only direct to the North West of England today Loreen is not on board, arriving on a connecting flight to the rainy side of the UK. That's probably good for her, as I've still got a sniffle at the moment and the last thing anybody here wants to do is get our queen ill now.

I commented on Loreen's current price while on the podcast. Loreen is continuing to shorten in the win market with the exchange currently 1.64/1.65.

This is, obviously a crazy short price in a 37 song field. We all know the reasons why Sweden is so short and I discussed that on the previous article I wrote before EuroJury results came out. What I questioned on the podcast is the rationale that means Sweden has continued to shorten.

EuroJury is the best (well only) proxy for how Eurovision juries vote at Eurovision. Statistically it is a decent fit and as such the market responds to it accordingly.

Sweden landslided the jury section of EuroJury. 18 of the 42 nations who could vote for Sweden gave Loreen 12 points. The gap to 2nd place France (more on them later) was over 100 points.

The problem I have is this. This result was expected. Loreen's score and landslide in EuroJury was not any different than any of us have been saying since we first heard Tattoo. This song's jury potential has been known since Melfest and these expectations of smashing the jury vote are what the entire community has been saying since then.

Sweden in EuroJury scored par for the course. The comparisons to other EuroJury entries in the past are unfair because we all knew prior that the gap from Loreen to the others are a jury package was this distance. Dami Im elevated her live performance in Stockholm to end up running away with the jury vote. Loreen's live performance in Liverpool has more risk of going backwards rather than forwards.

There's been arguments made that Sweden's shortening is more due to a poor Finnish display in EuroJury (just hitting the top 10) rather than Sweden's performance. Yes Finland's score on this proxy is a bogey compared to Sweden's par but I do utter some caution to the market to overreact here. Finland scored better from the juries larger in size (EuroJury has numerous one person selections) and I, perhaps controversially, can expect it to be performed better in Liverpool with pyro blasts than in Turku.

Yes the market may feel justified in reacting to this but the comfortable win by Sweden and the weak result from Finland are within expectation bounds. On the flip side the margin of victory for Sweden over Finland in the OGAE poll, the one demographic Loreen should triumph in more than any other, was far smaller than one would have expected beforehand. It was a neck-and-neck race with Käärijä until the very end.

Loreen's challenge to win Eurovision is to get 200+ televotes, not 300+ juries.

The biggest mover due to EuroJury though is the French entry. Before EuroJury France was trading at almost 100 (did go as high as 150) and then started moving down on a near daily basis to end up matching in recent days as low as 17. Frances 2nd place with EuroJury, alongside a 3rd place in the OGAE poll, suggests that the betting market completely misunderstood this one on first listen (when France drifted from around 20s when the song was first revealed)

The problem I have is that this doesn't feel unexpected. The reason that Loreen's landslide is only par for the course is that the market had agreed this was the odds on favourite to win the jury vote since that market had opened. There wasn't another challenger. Spain was floated around by some but, while Eaea is my number one of the year (biased, I saw it live at BenidormFest) it is also is many people's number 37 and just will struggle to get uniform support.

When one was looking around for tracks to do well with EuroJury without Loreen, France and Italy are obvious picks, oozing class in ways that few other options have offered this year. However they are obvious for other reasons.

They are classically authentic to what we, as foreigners, expect from those nations to produce, and are charmed by them. Western nations tend to do better with all sorts of polling metrics (we can speculate as to why, partly diaspora and partly cultural snobbery I would argue) and these entries are textbook to be well received here.

France in particular, with a sassy female, rousing vocal and a disco beat that I can't work out if it is cool or tired in its retroness, is the ultimate poll queen. I don't think we have ever had a song that, based on all these metrics, has fallen so perfectly into that sweet spot to overperform at this point in the year.

Now, what we need to establish, and the hard question is this, is to evaluate the chance if this top ranking from fans and *jurors* stays true in May. LaZarra has performed at the Madrid preview party (but did pull out of Amsterdam and London) and few were singing her praises that night despite a more than fine vocal live.

This comes down to the actual song I feel. The bridge is sublime and is up there with the best this year. The other two minutes thirty are not. The slow staccato opening is jarring not alluring and even when the beat kicks it is pedestrian, a few bpm too slow to get the fans truly going, at least those fans under 40. The chorus hook devoid of charm and character and I suspect LaZarra is going to have to do a Dami Im and ditch the melody for something that pricks your ears more if it wants to be in winner contention.

I'm not writing this to argue that 17s was too short or 85s too long for France. I, like others, can see some live potential here for this to be elevated from where it is now and do well. My complaint to the entire betting community though is how did we miss this either way? What were we expecting to be top three with EuroJury? Other than Norway (4th) and Spain as discussed I can't see anything else that would justify being up here. (As an aside the UK in 5th is remarkable and should maybe be reconsidered for the top 10). Finland was, at least in my expectations, aiming for 6th to 8th with EuroJury and depending on how you measure it does sit in that range.

My conclusion is that EuroJury should have taught us practically nothing this year, and that's my frustration. A frustration at the betting community for making an overreaction to what feels like the consensus purely confirming itself.

This is a personal frustration because of what I do and why I do this. One of the key reasons to set up BetEurovision was to have a platform to discuss betting on the Eurovision Song Contest and to explain how these odds work to the Eurovision community. The Eurovision community are a group obsessed with even the tiniest movement of odds, and this is a huge swing due purely to data and not to the artist's performance.

Normally I would love a data-driven odds shift...but this one makes me doubt our gambling community, because it should have been predictable. We say each year that the Eurovision betting markets get more and more accurate, beating all the other proxies out there.

That might well be true, but we still have a lot to learn.

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