In the wake of a quartet of players being suspended after a match fixing scandal stemming from a 2008 League Two contest between Accrington Stanley and Bury, When Saturday Comes’ Alex Wolstenholme stresses such news “is unlikely to halt the growing popularity of betting on football and the firm acceptance of the gaming industry into the sport.”
Once hidden behind the closed doors and frosted windows of the high street, the betting industry is now an increasingly familiar part of the sporting world in general and football in particular. Club websites have a link to an official betting partner, while bookmakers have sponsored teams, competitions and whole leagues such as the Blue Square Premier. This summer, Nottingham Forest and Wolves became the latest clubs to announce such sponsorship deals, with Victor Chandler and Sportingbet respectively. Meanwhile, former professionals and football presenters, such as Jeff Stelling, Chris Kamara (above) and Carlton Palmer, adorn the shop windows of the big betting companies, appear in television adverts and write columns in the racing press.
Until 2000, the Football League’s “minimum trebles” rule prevented betting on individual English games unless they were live on television, the presence of the cameras deemed enough of a deterrent to potential match-fixers to allow singles to be placed on a live game. The abolishment of the rule, coupled with the end of the ten per cent betting tax, provided a massive boost to football betting. Today a huge range of English games, including non-League matches, can be bet on individually. An astonishing array of markets at home and abroad is now on offer at the betting shop, at the other end of the phone and online.
Slow news days are often enlivened by stories claiming that a particular manager is under pressure after a bookmaker announces they have slashed their odds or closed the book on him being sacked. Often it can take only a small amount of money to change the odds and yet the story can grow a life of its own as a reaction is sought to the œnews. The only thing that bookmakers won’t be offering odds on next season is the number of matches that will be subject to official investigation.