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World Cup of Darts

2017-06-04 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2017-05-29 14:45:52)

The World Cup of Darts starts this Thursday in Frankfurt, Germany, with 32 countries battling it out for a £60000 first prize. There are eight seeded nations (Scotland, England, Netherlands, Wales, Australia, Northern Ireland and Belgium) and the outright winner will almost definitely come from that group but every match is a potential banana skin for the big boys. The format has changed over the years and it is now played in a straight knockout format. The first round is two best of nine legs pairs; round 2 through to the semi-finals is two best of seven leg singles with a best of 7 pairs as a decider if required. The final is first to 3 points is the winner with two best of 7 singles and a best of 7 pairs. If necessary, singles will be played until one team reaches the three points required.

So it is fast and furious and in such short format matches, the outsiders do have a punchers chance. You can’t afford a slow start, snooze and you lose in a best of nine or best of seven match. Last year’s World Cup was won by England, beating The Netherlands in the final, but they very nearly went out in the first round, only narrowly beating Spain in the first round, 5-4. That said all the seeds made it through the first round, Wales were the only seeded nation to go out in round 2 and the semi-finals were all seeded affairs with England beating Northern Ireland 2-0 and Netherlands beating Belgium, leaving the 1st and 3rd seeds to play out the final.

Since the competition format was changed to a straight knockout (2014) it has been won by Netherlands once in 2014 (MVG and Barney) and in 2015 and 2016 it was won by England (Taylor and Lewis). This year England has a new line up with Dave Chisnall replacing Taylor. The strongest team has to be Scotland with two very much in-form top flight players, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright. However the bookies make Scotland (7/4) second favourites to the Netherlands (5/4) who return with their usual line up of Van Gerwen and Van Barneveld.

England are the 6/1 third favourites as the market isn’t that confident about the state of Lewis’ game and Chisnall’s less than stellar record in big TV events. Wales (Gerwyn Price and Mark Webster) are seeded 4th but are the bookies 5th favourite and 40/1 shots with Australia (Whitlock and Kyle Anderson) priced up as the 25/1 4th favourite, which seems a little bizarre to me. Northern Ireland, semi-finalists last year with the same line up of Daryl Gurney and Brendan Dolan are a 50/1 shot. 7th seeds Austria (Suljovic and Rodriguez) also 50/1 and the final seeded team, Belgium 40/1 (the Huybrechts brothers).

You can understand why Netherlands might be favourites as they have the best player in the world in their two man team and Van Barneveld is no slouch, even if his most recent form hasn’t been great. And that’s the difference between them and Scotland. They have the 2nd and 3rd best players in the world both in recent winning form while MVG lost the Dubai Masters final to Anderson last week and Wright having won seven titles already this season. Barney is currently ranked 10th in the world but he comes here on the back of six straight defeats which is poor and if he doesn’t pull his weight it will be hard for MVG to carry him as a passenger, especially in the latter rounds. His form is a big enough worry for me to make Scotland the favourites, not the Netherlands.

Scotland has also got a good draw, avoiding the Netherlands until the final and with the other seeds in their half of the draw being Wales, Australia and Belgium, all of whom they will be short priced favourites to beat. The Netherlands on the other hand have England, Northern Ireland and Austria in their half and that looks harder to me, especially if Barney is out of form.

The last time Wright and Anderson paired up for this was in 205 when they reached the final but lost 3-2 to England. It is fair to say that Peter Wright in particular has improved massively since then and they can go one better this time round. They also beat the Netherlands (MVG and RVB in the semi) that year.

4 points Scotland to win the World Cup of Darts @ 7/4 with Ladbrokes, Coral

There are a few outsiders of interest but it must be said that the three finals in the knockout format era the final has been between the 1st and 2nd seeds twice and the 1st and 3rd seeds once, so it should pay not to look too far down the list of seeds to find the winner.

Belgium and Northern Ireland have both reached two semi-finals in the past three years and Northern Ireland features one of the more exciting up and coming players in the world, Daryl Gurney. His recent form has seen his first pro tour win, two other final appearances along with a semi-final -place in the Gibraltar Trophy were he missed four match darts to make the final. He has won eight of his last ten matches and is scoring heavy. Brendan Dolan is a veteran of this competition and this will be his strongest team mate by some margin. It’s fair to say that his own form hasn’t been fantastic this season but he loves the event and with two semi-finals from the last three years he has positive memories to draw on. Northern Ireland is one of those small nations that over performs in sports and players just grow a little when they slip on the green shirts.

Their big problem is the draw. They have been handed a tricky first round match against home nation Germany who have the young but talented Max Hopp in their line-up. That should still be winnable but the next round should see them play the Netherlands and while that would be a match that Dutch would know would be tricky, they would be the overwhelming favourite to win.

Belgium gave also over-performed in this event with their two semi-finals in the knock out format era and reached the final in 2013 from a fairly modest line up of Kim and Ronnie Huybrechts. Kim can be brilliant at times but Ronny peaked in 2104 and at 52 he isn’t getting any better. His most recent form sees six wins from his last ten but he isn’t often playing at the top level anymore. Kim had to go through the premier league mincer again this year but his form is holding up having reached a Players Championship final (lost to Gurney) and two other semi-finals including the most recent one in Milton Keynes. Their first round match vs. New Zealand is a tricky first game so they could just a likely be an early casualty as a semi-finalist.

Wales have a decent looking line up with rising start Gerwyn Price joining former BDO world champion Mark Webster. Webster can still be a dangerous opponent but his battle with the yips has taken its toll on his game and it’s fair to say he lacks consistency. Their draw is quite kind, not due to meet Scotland till the semi-finals and if anyone was betting on reaching the semis then they would be attractive.

We will be taking a look at some of the individual matches as the Tournament gets underway on Thursday.


The 2017 U.K. General Election

2017-06-07 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2017-05-04 11:30:04)

‘Vote and vote often’ was a saying when I was boy growing up in Belfast. It alluded to the fact that some people actually had the right to vote more than once, usually unionist business men and it was an effective way for keeping Unionists in power. We should now resurrect the phase but for a different reason. I have two visits to the polling station in the next six weeks for local elections followed shortly afterwards by the general election. These come hard on the heels of last June’s EU referendum, the Scottish independence referendum and the last general election back in May 2015. Let’s just say that some schools are coming in for some stick for interfering with the smooth running of a polling station.

So here we go again, leaflet printing companies are in clover, coach hire companies are getting ready to respray their fleets red or blue and dogs across the nation will have a field day barking at all those (very) strange people knocking on doors pretending to be interested in the occupant’s problems and concerns. We just can’t get enough of elections, we love it don’t we?

No of course we don’t. At least this election campaign will be relatively short and then we can all get back to normality until the next one comes along and my guess is that this will be the last GE for five years as whoever wins will not want to risk asking for a new mandate in the middle of trying to get out of Europe and the associated economic woe that will entail.

From a betting point of view this election looks like a one horse race and that horse is just about fit for the knacker’s yard. Let’s have a look at the runners and riders in the parade ring.

Conservative/May: An unpredictable gangly grey mare who can’t fail to win given the paucity of the opposition. Has tendency to change direction at a moment’s notice but has a ruthless ambition to win at any cost, even if that cost isn’t properly declared to the electoral commission. May is riding on the post-Brexit wave of nationalism and is using something she didn’t want (Brexit) to force an election that we definitely were not going to have until 2020. Strong and Stable………you decide.

Of course there is no such thing as a sure fire winner but the conservatives to have the most seats after the election is as good a 1/16 shot as you will see. Where are the threats? There is no credible opposition so the conservatives would have to commit some sort of political Seppuku if they are to fail to hit an open goal. Of course, given their ‘star’ performers, such as Mad Boris, the Cove Gove and Hunt the C**t there is every chance they will stumble at various points in the race but they are lucky that we live in a post truth society. Lies and deceptions do not matter anymore so long as they are red, white and blue lies.

The European Bogeyman has been wheeled out to get the Daily Mail readers frothing at the mouth and with the tide of world politics moving sharply to the right in recent years this will be the easiest general election ever for a right wing party to win.

Labour/Corbyn: Priced up as the second favourite but that must only be because the Monster Raving Loony Party is having the week off. In a country struggling under the burden of an economic policy of austerity the Labour party should be a shoe in to be the biggest party in Parliament after this election but they find themselves some 20 points off the Conservatives in most opinion polls and a 14/1 outsider.

Jezza Corbyn is actually a more principled politician than most and many of his policies are sensible, even necessary in order to re-balance the political order and social democracy. However he faces a hostile press, very hostile. He is painted as a terrorist loving communist lunatic by the press and hasn’t got the savvy to use new media to set his agenda, or if he tries, he is only preaching to the converted. And that is a huge problem.

Traditional Labour voters, especially the older ones, are prepared to jump ship, straight from Labour to Conservative, something quite unthinkable even a few years ago. Anyone in any doubt about how bad this election could be for Labour only has to look to Scotland and see what happened to Labour there. Once the de facto largest political party in Scotland it ended up with one single seat in the last general election, one.

The same thing is happening in the rest of the UK. Brexit has changed the landscape in the same way as the Scottish Independence left Scottish Labour up a creek without a paddle. They didn’t listen to their voters so those voters gave their vote to the SNP who cleaned up as a result. The rest of the UK has become fixated by one issue, Brexit and all that entails. Traditional Labour voters, especially the older less educated ones of which there are many, are more interested in’ getting their country back’ and sending immigrants home. The parliamentary Labour party have ignored that unsavoury fact, failing to learn even from the EU referendum. It doesn’t fit with Corbyn’s right on persona.

Labour is in several states of denial, denial about what their supporters really want is the most important but the leadership are in denial about the leader himself. Corbyn may very well be a nice bloke and good on the hustings, but he is unelectable, totally unelectable, even against a Conservative party that are steadily dismantling the welfare state. His MP’s know this but the process of electing a new leader was gerrymandered to the Nth degree to allow the hard left, the Socialist Workers party and even conservative party members the ability to buy a vote for £3 and get their man in charge, for differing reason’s. So many Labour MP’s go into this election knowing that they will be looking for a new job come June 9th but they are powerless to stop it happening.

Their only hope is that the Brexit remainers rally around the biggest opposition party and give them their vote in order to either stop Brexit or at least moderate the degree of hardness of the exit. Unfortunately this won’t happen as Labour is not really anti Brexit. I think they might have sort of been a bit against it before the referendum in a half-hearted way but generally they seem a bit confused by the whole issue.

Rallying the younger vote is a real opportunity for Labour. That demographic is much more left leaning than the elderly but is there any sign that they are trying to mobilise the younger (under 40) voters? No, so those voters will either vote Liberal, which many see as a wasted vote or maybe vote Green which is seen in much the same way. So what will they do? Not vote at all.

This has all the makings of a death rattle for the Labour Party and they may very well face the same sort of collapse in England and Wales as it suffered in Scotland. Traditional or voters of habit are becoming fewer and they can’t just rely on their traditional working class vote. What is the working class anyway? Does it really exist in the same way it used to?

LibDem/Farron: Having been savaged at the last election purely for having been in bed with the Tories in a coalition government the LibDems have a chance to get off the political life support machine and make some sort of comeback. Under Nick Clegg they had 56 MP’s which was reduced to just 8 at the last GE. Since then they have picked up one by-election basically on an anti-Brexit ticket.

The LibDems are the only party to really stand up and say F**k Brexit, they are the rallying point for the 48% of the population who did not want Brexit and are not looking forward to the consequences of it. The degree of their return will be the most interesting aspect of this election. They will pick up a lot of tactical votes were they pose a real threat to a conservative candidate and they can win back some of their traditional seats in the West Country.

The lack of a charismatic leader is a weakness, but that’s fair to say of any of the major parties these days but the LibDem’s can hardly fail to dramatically improve on their number of seats won.

4 points Over 27.5 LibDem seats @ 5/6 with Corals

UKIP/Nutall: UKIP have never had an MP elected and now in the hands of the rather demented Paul Nutall I will be very surprised if they ever do. No MP’s is the 2/7 favourite for how many seats they will win for a reason.

Green/Lucas/Bartley: So hip they have a job share for the leader’s job. They have just the one MP, co-leader Caroline Lucas in the very cool Brighton constituency. They are being smart and trying to do deals with the LibDems so that they will not put up candidates in the few places were one of the two parties is the biggest threat to a Conservative constituency. They may pick up the Isle of Wight but there are not many seats that are as trendy as Brighton, even in Central London.

2 points over 1.5 seats @ 5/4 with Skybet, Bet365

SNP/Sturgeon: Having cleaned up in Scotland thanks to Labours collapse the SNP then ended up with 56 Westminster MP’s in the 2015 election, the third biggest party by seats in the UK. Sturgeon is despised and loved in equal measure and while many in England she her as an annoying threat, in Scotland she is seen more for standing up for Scottish interests than Labour or Conservatives would ever be.

Things in Scotland are more complicated than in the rest of the UK. There is still a solid number (40 – 50%?) who want independence and they will gravitate to the SNP as usual. However the country proved to be much more pro-Europe than in the rest of the UK in the EU referendum which has re-opened the independence debate. There was a small majority who were pro-Union in the independence vote and they will now be forced to vote for whichever party is pro-Union and that is Labour (gone at the game politically in Scotland) or the Conservatives.

Tories in Scotland were about as scarce as the Loch Ness Monster up until the independence referendum when they became the focus for pro-union voters. In 2015 they ended up with just one Scottish MP, in the borders region, which may explain why. This time round they expect to do better as they are picking up the unionist vote which should be, or at least was, the biggest part of the voting population in the independence referendum.

Now many Scots just cannot bring themselves to vote Conservative, which is still tarnished with the memories of Thatcher and her beloved poll tax which killed the Tories in Scotland. So any swing towards the Conservative party is unlikely to be huge but they will be targeting places like Dumfries and Galloway and Berwickshire where the SNP’s majority was low in 2015. These are border areas where the idea of actually having a hard border post any future independence vote is very high on the agenda. I imagine they will pick up at least one more seat maybe two but odds of 2/9 to win the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat are very short.

A Tory win in Dumfries and Galloway is as low as 1/6 which again very short given that the SNP had a 6514 majority. The SNP’s problem is that Labour got nearly 14000 votes in 2015 and it is where a lot of them will go that will swing it. Given that the ‘No’ to independence vote in Dumfries and Galloway was 66% it isn’t rocket science to see that the SNP aren’t going to get many defecting Labour voters going their way.

However, it’s the ‘never a tory’ mentality which could yet swing it for the SNP. Dissatisfied Labour supporters may just not vote, unable to stomach the thought of helping the conservatives. The SNP vote will be pretty stable and this constituency could be a lot closer than the odds suggest. The SNP are the only credible opponents to voting Conservative and they will pick up some amount of tactical votes. The MP who was filling the post didn’t disgrace himself and if he is up against the same Tory candidate as last time, his odds of winning look good to me.

1 points SNP to win Dumfries and Galloway @ 4/1 with Skybet