Bookmakers suspend betting on next Archbishop of Canterbury

Bishop Justin Welby Image copyright other
Image caption Bookmaker William Hill cut the odds on Justin Welby three times in one hour

Bookmakers Ladbrokes and William Hill have suspended betting on the next Archbishop of Canterbury after a flurry of bets placed on one candidate.

Ladbrokes closed betting after reporting a "very significant move" in favour of the current Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby.

William Hill followed suit saying it had cut the odds on Bishop Welby three times in an hour.

A panel has been considering who will replace Rowan Williams for months.

The Crown Nominations Commission has not set a date to announce his successor, although the decision was expected several weeks ago.

Ladbrokes tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that Bishop Welby had become 6/4 joint favourite to be chosen.

Dark horse

Less than half an hour later, the bookmaker tweeted: "Very significant move for Justin Welby to be next Archbishop of Canterbury. He's now evens favourite."

Several minutes after that, Ladbrokes said betting had been suspended, saying in its tweet: "Money suggests that @Bishopofdurham has got the job."

William Hill reported a similar flurry of bets on Bishop Welby, saying it had responded by slashing his odds from 13/8 second favourite, to 4/6 favourite.

Graham Sharpe, a spokesman for William Hill, said: "In the space of less than an hour we had to cut the odds three times so took the decision to close the book.

"We know a decision is already overdue and it seems word may have leaked out."

Bishop Welby has been described by BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott as the "dark horse" of the contest.

Better-known candidates include Archbishop of York John Sentamu and Bishop of London Richard Chartres.

A former oil industry executive, Justin Welby was installed as Bishop of Durham last year having been Dean of Liverpool since 2007.

He is also a member of the parliamentary committee looking into the professional standards and culture of the UK banking sector.

Rowan Williams is due to step down as Archbishop of Canterbury in December, after 10 years in the post.

Contenders to succeed him also include Bishop of Coventry Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Norwich Graham James and Bishop of Liverpool James Jones.

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