Football and Betting: An Overpowering Obsession

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 29: Sky Bet Play Offs advertisement during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Reading and Huddersfield Town at Wembley Stadium on May 29, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

Over the past few years, betting has become so engrossed in English football that for many, football is now an easy excuse for a flutter. Indeed, spectators can often be seen with their heads down, gazing into their phones, rather than looking at the game they have paid to watch, just to ensure that their accumulators are still in good shape. Betting is threatening the authenticity of English football and needs to be regulated.

On The Rise

Everybody heard about the lucky few who won thousands by backing Leicester to win the 2015/16 Premier League. The thousands, maybe even millions who lost money by backing other sides, however, went unmentioned.

The bookies are well-trained in creating this façade; this folly which suggests people can ‘win big’ on football. William Hill’s ‘Your Odds’, Sky Bet’s ‘RequestABet’ and Ladbrook’s ‘Edit My Acca’, as well as the universal ‘Bet in Play’ scheme are all relatively new tricks that make the betting man believe he has one up on the bookies. Of course, this is not the case – in 2015, William Hill turned over $2.37 billion. That figure epitomises how well these advertising campaigns are working; more and more people are betting, and losing.

Advertising

The appearances of Chris Kamara and Jeff Stelling in recent advertising campaigns, alongside the witty stories of PaddyPower and Betway, are responsible for this. Sky Sports viewers will know every word to these adverts, despite not necessarily being a betting person themselves. Combine these campaigns with the ease of access that smart phones provide and there is a dangerous result: gambling galore.

Last season, ten Premier League teams had a betting company as their main shirt sponsor. The irony lies in the fact that only one of these sides finished in the top ten of the division (Bournemouth, sponsored by Mansion Casino). Even then, they finished ninth. Ten of last season’s bottom eleven, therefore, and none of the top eight, had betting companies on the front of their shirts. The bookies seemed to bring bad luck, as surely David Moyes and Sunderland would testify.

The point is, besides that ironic anecdote, that this was not the situation ten years ago. In the 2007-08 season, only three Premier League shirts bore a betting company on the front. This corresponds fully with the incredible rise in popularity through increased accessibility. No longer are you either in the bookies or at the football; both can easily be combined.

Unfulfilled Promises

This leads to multiple issues. Most obviously, the working class fan is being further sucked of their cash as they live in hope of the ‘Price Boost’ their bookie  offered. Besides this, the authenticity of the game is suffering. Football is becoming more of a means to an end—an opportunity to have a bet—rather than an end in itself: a pleasure without any external biases. Fans are becoming stuck to their phones or betting slips instead of the game itself.

Football does not need the stress of making or losing money attached to it. It is already stressful enough. Enjoy the game for what it is; and you never know, you may enjoy it more. According to bookies, you can only ‘live the game’ if you bet on it, but who are they to trust?

It may seem like there is money to be made, but betting companies’ profits are only ever rising. Football’s obsession with the betting industry is only helping the few, and certainly not the many.

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