Featured, Sport

The ugly truth of football betting

Placing a bet can make any football game more exciting. Money always has and always will be something that we are all drawn to, so the opportunity to pocket some ‘easy cash’ is not usually turned down by regular gamblers.

For many, including myself, betting is something that is regularly discussed during conversations with friends. Whether it be sharing which teams you are including in your accumulator this week or venting your anger at the bet (which you were sure would win) losing.

One of the most infamous betting stories of recent times came in 2016, when Leicester City – against all odds – won the Premier League. Prior to that season, the Foxes were given 5000-1 odds to win the title, which ultimately cost the bookies a serious sum of money in pay-outs.

Betting has been instated into British law since 1190, by order of the Kings of England (Richard I) and France (Phillip) of the time. This outlined a basic set of rules and guidelines for gambling and who was allowed to bet, ultimately laying the foundations for the betting markets which we know so well today.

Fast forward 830 years and betting is still widely participated in – most notably in football. A 2019 study concluded that £786m was spent on football betting in that year, which is almost 40% of the online betting gross gaming yield.   

With football, as a sport, being as popular as it is, it is understandable for its betting market to be so sizeable. Over time, betting, in some cases, has become part of social interaction amongst individuals.

Gambling for fun with friends can develop into an issue if the habit becomes persistent. Betting addiction is a huge problem that many people will face. A survey in 2020, conducted by the GambleAware charity, estimated that 1.4 million people in the UK were problem gamblers.

Although this figure is for gambling as a whole, rather than betting in just football, this emphasises the extent to which this is an issue for so many. With some football matches attracting audiences upwards of 5 million viewers, the football industry is extremely popular.

Gambling has a huge presence in ‘the beautiful game’, mainly in the form of sponsorships. A large number of clubs have betting companies shirt sponsors and the second tier of English football is named the “Sky Bet Championship”. This glorification of gambling is not always a good thing and could be deemed as irresponsible given the large number of younger viewers who regularly watch football and could be influenced by it.

Sky Bet, one of the largest betting companies in the UK, launched a ‘responsible gambling’ message in its advertising in 2017. By promoting the message “When the fun stops, stop”, awareness is raised for the dangers of betting and thus an ethical obligation to issue a warning is achieved.

Football betting has also been at the forefront of controversy in the past, with several football players breaching the terms of their contracts and engaging in betting in the sport which they compete in. In 2020, English footballer, Kieran Trippier was found to have tipped off friends about his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Atletico Madrid.

Although something like this may seem harmless, it breaches numerous betting laws and regulations, emphasising the fact that the betting market is far from the fun way of passing time that it is viewed as by many.

Gambling through boredom is a serious issue for many, particularly in addicts, when the days begin to drag and betting on a sport which they have absolutely no knowledge of becomes a habit.

At the time it may seem like a few pounds here and there but they will quickly add up and this financial hole is far from easy to recover from. The psychological cycle which people will go through to try and win back money that they have lost is one that must be avoided at all costs.

In 2019, betting company Paddy Power announced that despite their sponsorship of football club Huddersfield Town, there would be no visible shirt sponsor for that season in order to convince others, including betting companies, to follow suit. This was a huge step in the right direction in addressing the problems surrounding football betting, in a last-ditch attempt to mitigate consumer exploitation.


Feature images sourced from Unsplash

Max Ashforth is a first-year journalism student with aspirations to pursue a career in journalism. You can find him on instagram @Max_Ashforth.