Football is easily one of the biggest sports in the world when it comes to online betting. You only need to spend a few minutes on bookmakers such as bet365, Ladbrokes and Coral to see just how in-depth their coverage of the sport is. The sports betting industry is estimated to be worth between £400bn and £625bn a year, with football making up around 70% of the overall trade, highlighting just how popular, in important the sport is the online betting.
One of the main reasons why so many people are betting on football is because there are so many countries with top quality leagues around the world these days. As we will highlight below, Europe have the majority of these leagues, but these days you will see highly competitive outlets from Asia, North & South America and Australasia, making a truly global fascination.
European Football Leagues
As mentioned, Europe is the top dogs still when it comes to the strength of their leagues. The likes of England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France are able to attract the best players in the world, mainly because of the financial rewards that teams in these leagues have. We have drawn together a list of the best leagues from across Europe, of which you can see below.
English Premier League (UK)
The Premier League has been running since 1992, and is actually one of the youngest top-flight leagues in Europe. The formation of the Premier League came about on the back of a decision for clubs to break away from the football league and in turn, take advantage of lucrative television deals that were on the table.
Since 1992, the league has thrived and now generates over £2.2bn per year in television rights alone. The success that the league has had is highlighted by it being the most watched football league in the world, with over 200 countries broadcasting matches each season and in turn a global audience of 4.7bn. But, the Premier League doesn’t just attract a large following from armchair supporters, it’s average game attendance of 36,000 is beaten only by the Bundesliga, with most of the stadiums hitting full capacity for each game that’s on show.
The format of the league is made up of 38 teams, with games starting in August and running right through until May. Each team will play each other both home and away throughout the season, with 3 points being awarded for a win, 1 for a draw and zero for a loss. The team with the most points at the end of the season will be crowned the winners and the three lowest ranked teams will be relegated into the Championship.
The league has often been criticised in the past, favouring teams with huge financial advantages over the rest, widely known as ‘the big four’, made up of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City. Up until the 2015/16 season, only one team (Blackburn Rovers 1994/5 season) had won the Premier League outside of the ‘big four’.
But, that all changed in the 2015/16 season when huge 5000/1 outsiders Leicester City rocked the footballing world to go on and win the league. Just 12 months previously, Leicester had narrowly avoided relegation to remain in the league, making their feat all that more impressive. This achievement from Leicester has backed up claims that the Premier League is widely regarded as the most exciting league in the world.
The Bundesliga is probably one of the most improved leagues over the last decade or so, but has been about since 1963. It’s also the most supported league in the world in terms of stadium attendance – as mentioned above – with an average of 43,000 fans turning up for each game. One of the main reasons behind is the competitive pricing structure for both tickets and season tickets, allowing games to be much more accessible for everyday fans, compared with some countries that often price fans out of attending live games.
As a business, the league generates around 1.7bn Euro through a mixture of match-day revenue, sponsorship and broadcasting rights. But, the league also has the lowest percentage of revenue invested in player wages from any of the top European leagues, sitting at just over 50%.
There are 18 teams that are apart of the Bundesliga each season, which kick off in August and finishes in May. Bayern Munich are by far the most decorated club in the league, winning 24 separate Bundesliga titles, which is a staggering 19 more than both Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach, both with 5.
Ligue 1 (France)
Ligue 1 is the highlight of the French domestic football season, and also see’s one of the oldest top-flight leagues in Europe, being established in 1932. The league includes 20 teams and is seen as one of the fastest emerging major leagues in the world. This is mainly down to the increase in foreign ownership throughout the league, thus bringing in huge sums of money to attract some of the worlds best players.
Clubs like PSG and Monaco have benefitted greatly from these takeovers, but that’s arguably had a detrimental affect on the rest of the league, seeing a huge gap from those at the top to those at the bottom and even middle of the league. This was highlighted in the 2015/16 season where PSG were deemed champions and finished a massive 31 points clear to that of Lyon in second place.
The league, like so many of the major leagues across Europe, starts off in August and then finishes up in May. Throughout December all teams have a two break over Christmas and the New Year, with most league matches taking place on a Saturday or Sunday, with the odd mid-week game as well. Each team in the league will play each over twice throughout the league, with the top 2 teams gaining automatic Champions League places, 3rd getting Champions League qualifying round spot, 4th a Europa League spot and then the 3 lowest ranked teams being related into Ligue 2.
The most successful team in the history of Ligue 1 is that of Saint Etienne who have won the tournament on 10 different occasion. But, PSG have won the league 4 times in a row from 2012/13, and are widely expected to carry on this trend – due to their investment – to add to their current 6 titles and in turn, overtake that of Saint Etienne.
La Liga (Spain)
La Primera Division; but to most it’s more commonly known as La Liga, is the biggest league in Spain and the pinnacle of their domestic game. The league was founded in 1929 and since 1997 has included 20 of the best teams from across the country. The league is widely regarded as the best league in Europe, in terms of the quality of players and teams that are on offer. One of the main reasons behind this is because of La Liga having the top rated team in Europe over that time period, a feat they have achieved on 18 separate occasions, doubling that of the next best, Serie A, with 9.
For many years both Barcelona and Real Madrid have been the top teams in the league, but in more recent times Atletico Madrid have joined them at the summit creating a ‘big three’. Since the league started in 1929 only 6 other teams aside from the big three have won the league, with one of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid being crowned champions on 76 separate occasions, with the rest of field only making up 19 titles in total.
Even though La Liga is ranked number one in terms of quality, the league on see’s an average game attendance of just over 24,000, which is only the fourth highest for any professional football league in the world. The season starts in August and runs through till May, with each of the 20 teams playing against each other both home and away. Spain also take a Christmas break from the back end of December to early January.
Serie A is the oldest of the top-flight professional leagues across Europe officially starting in 1898. But, the structure that we see today didn’t come into affect until 1929, playing out as a round robin league format. Serie A is ranked as the fourth strongest professional league, behind that of La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga, but is widely regarded as one of the toughest, mainly down to the style of play that many teams in the league adopt.
Similarly to other European leagues, Serie A is made up of three main teams in the form of Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. As you would expect, the rivalry between the two Milan based clubs to fierce to say the least, but the league also brings out several huge rivalries, including that of Roma and Lazio.
Since 2004 the league has included 20 teams, an increase from 18 teams previous to that. Again, games are played out between August and May, with each of the teams playing each other twice in the league format. The team with the most points at the end of the season is crowned the winner and any teams finishing on the same number of points will go down to goal difference.
The Champions League is the biggest and most prestigious club tournament in the world. It brings together the best performing teams from the previous season across a number of European leagues. The number of representatives from each country will vary depending on UEFA ranking points and can vary from 1 to a maximum of 4 teams from one league.
The tournament has been running since 1992 as the UEFA Champions League, but it actually dates back to 1955 where it was known as the European Cup. The old format saw a much greater number of teams compete, but these days that number is 32 for the group stages proper. There are qualifying rounds, which will include up to 79 teams, decreasing as each round goes by.
The format of the tournament proper is that of 8 groups of 4 teams. Each team will then play each other both home and away, with 3 points awarded for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. The top two placed teams from each group will then move through into the last 16, where the tournament then plays out a straight knockout format. But, for each round teams will again play each other both home and away, before the aggregate score is taken to decide the winner. If the teams are tied on aggregate score then the team with the most away goals will progress. If this is also tied then the last leg will work through extra time and penalties if needed to decide the winner.
Real Madrid is the most successful team in the Champions League, winning it on 11 separate occasions. AC Milan lies second with 7 wins. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals than any other player with 93 from just 127 appearances. Iker Casillas is the most capped player ever with 156 appearances for both Real Madrid and Porto, respectively.
The European Championships are run by governing body for European football, UEFA. The tournament is the only international event that takes place between solely members of UEFA and has been running since 1960. The event runs every 4 years and takes place 2 years after every World Cup. It’s usually held over June and July, concluding the end of the European domestic season.
The tournament these days consists of 24 teams, although prior to the 2016 event, it only catered for that of 16 teams. There are 6 groups of 4 that work in the tournament proper, two of which from each group will qualify automatically for the knockout round. The next 4 best 3rd place finishers will also enter the knockout stage. Within each group the teams will play each other just once, with 3 points being awarded for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss.
Germany and Spain have each won the European Championship on 3 separate occasions, more than any other country.
The World Cup is ruin by the head of world football, FIFA. It’s widely regarded as the pinnacle of the international football arena and has been running since 1930, making it one of the oldest international tournaments in the world also. The tournament runs every 4 years and the hosts are voted for by a panel from FIFA after what is usually a long and arduous bidding process from each country.
The tournament proper includes 32 teams that each have to go through a qualifying phase to get into the group stage. The only exceptions to the qualifying process are that of the tournament hosts, which are voted for and decided for each World Cup. There are currently six FIFA continental zones that can qualify which are Africa, Asian, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania and Europe. Depending on the stature of each zone from within FIFA will depend on how many sports each zone will receive in terms of qualifying places.
One into the group stage proper there are 8 groups of 4 teams, all mixed based up seeding’s from world rankings and also the zone in which each country has come from. The top 2 teams from each group will qualify for the knockout stages and work through the last 16, quarterfinal stage, semi-final and then the final. The 2 losers from the semi final stage will also play off in a 3rd/4th place eliminator.
Brazil are the most decorated country at the World Cup with 5 wins in total, with Germany and Italy in 2nd place with 4 wins a piece, respectively. Miroslav Klose of Germany is the all-time top scorer with 16 World Cup goals, whilst Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer are the only two people to have won the World Cup as a player and a manager.
First held in 1871, the FA Cup is the oldest cup completion in the game and is still flourishing to this day. The completion is unique in that it allows teams from the top 10 tiers of English football to qualify and work their through each knockout round. Often people go on about the ‘Magic’ of the FA Cup which is essentially in reference to seeing smaller clubs overachieve and even beat teams that have money that team could only dream of.
The FA Cup, as we mentioned, starts off very early in the season around August time, with teams from the very lowest leagues in England competing to get into the cup round proper. Once the tournament starts proper with the fist round in November, we then start to see the introduction of higher ranked teams such as League 1 and League 2. But, it’s not until the third round where the Premier League and Championship teams get added to the draw and this is where everything starts to spice up a little bit.
You see, there are no seeds in the FA Cup and every round is literally drown out of a hat. This means that the smallest team could get drawn against the biggest team, which in itself could literally financially guarantee a smaller clubs safety just in gate receipts alone. The tournament works through a knockout stage and as it gets to the semi final it goes from games being played at the home ground of the first team drawn, to being played at Wembley Stadium; this is also where the final will be played. The winner of the FA Cup also gets automatic entrance in the Europa League.
Manchester United and Arsenal are the two most successful teams in the competitions history with 12 wins apiece. Ashley Cole is the most successful player, winning in 7 separate occasions for both Arsenal and Chelsea.
The Europa League has been about since 1971, but back then was commonly known as the UEFA Cup. In 2009, to try and increase the exposure of the competition, it through a major re-brand and saw it then be called the Europa League. It’s widely regarded as Europe’s second-string elite event behind that of the Champions League, but still is a more than credible trophy to win with some of the biggest names from across Europe vying for the title each season.
The tournament actually kicks off with 160 teams from dozens of leagues throughout Europe. Most of these are involved with qualifying stages before it then whittles its way down to the final 48 teams and enter the group stage. There are 12 groups in total initially and each team in the group will play each other twice. The top two teams from each group will then qualify to the last 32, along with 8 teams dropping down from the Champions League. The final 32 teams all play a straight knockout stage, where each team plays once at home and then once away, before combining their aggregate score. If the scores are the same then it goes to away goals and if these are the same, then extra time and penalties will be played out if needed.
Sevilla are the most successful team in the Europa League with 5 wins from 2006 through to 2016. They are also the first and only team to have won the tournament three times in a row from 2014 to 2016. No player has scored more goals than Henrik Larsson from Sweden, with 40 gaols from just 56 games (teams included Feyenoord, Celtic and Helsingborg), giving him a goals to game ratio of 0.78.
Match odds (Win/Draw/Win)
The match odds for each game of football will likely be the most popular, as they are generally the market that most people will either have a strong opinion on or are most knowledgeable about. The concept is very simple in that you either choose a home win, draw or an away win. You then place your bet on whichever option you like, and that result will need to come in for the bet to be successful, obviously.
The best way to really take advantage of this market is by doing your research on home and away form for each team. It’s vital that your research is targeted to the teams relevant home or away form rather than their overall form, as this can often lead to slightly skewed results for both.
For example, you may be looking to back a team to win away from home based on the fact that they have won 3, drawn 2 and lost 2 of their last 6 games. These seem like pretty reasonable form and it’s likely the odds for that team to win will be favourable and offer up some value. But, digging a little deeper, you see that in fact the teams 2 loses and 1 draw have all come away from home, making this record very poor. Looking a little further back into the season, you notice a trend that they are particularly poor away from home, but very strong at home, throwing up a bit of curve ball in terms of which way to bet.
It’s for this very reason why we need to target research on the W-D-W market to take into account when and where teams have picked up points.
The correct score market couldn’t be simpler really; you need to highlight what you think the exact score for that game will be at full time. This market tends to get its popularity from punters who are looking for slightly longer bets than say the W-D-W for example, as the likelihood of calling these bets increases in difficultly.
The correct score market is a tough one to predict, but we have a couple of pointers which you should look to consider before placing your bet. The first one we would recommend is trying to avoid the win to nil bets, so scores like 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 etc. Our reasoning behind is that it’s going to take just one goal from the other team to score to completely scupper your bet. If for example you picked a score line such as 2-1, 3-1, 1-1 then a goal from either team is always going to keep you in the hunt.
Using the above strategy works great with cash out betting. If you are unfamiliar with cash out betting then it’s basically where you can settle your bet with the bookmaker before the final result comes in, guaranteeing your payout and any profit or loss that comes from that.
Correct score betting works well as the market will react to any goal that has been scored. If you bet on a score line that needs both teams to score then as soon as one team scores, regardless of the score that you have selected, the market will change and increase the likelihood that your result will come in, thus altering the odds in your favour if you were going to cash out. Now, what you need to understand is that this is a pretty general rule and there will certainly be times where if the wrong team scores, it will hinder your bet – late goals for the team you bet against can be a killer – but, if you are looking to wager on the correct score market, then this is going to be a great feature to use in tandem.
First, last and anytime scorer
The goalscorer markets are again, another that is pretty self-explanatory. For each bet you will need to predict the player that scores first, last or at anytime in that match. It’s worth noting that with most bookmakers, own goals will not count towards these betting markets, so if an own goal was scored and the player you backed for first goalscorer then went on to get the second goal, your bet would win as the own goal would be removed for betting purposes.
There are two, fairly obvious, categories of players that you need to be targeting for these types of bets. The first is the clubs most potent attacking threat, often their top scorer. By process of elimination, due to the goals that player has scored previously, these guys are going to be the most obvious choice for all of these bets. They will likely be the lowest odds for these types of bets, so that’s why you may want to look at our second selection.
Next you can look at the team’s set piece taker. These are players that are going to be taking penalties and direct free kicks. Sometimes you will find that these tie into the same player as the first point, but not always. For example, defender, Leighton Baines at Everton took all penalties and free kicks, making him a great shout for these types of bets, especially anytime goalscorer, but he wasn’t the clubs top goalscorer.
As a final pointer for these types of bets, make an effort to look out for bookmakers who offer incentives when placing bets in these types of markets. For example, at Betfred if you wager on the first goalscorer market and your bet is successful, if they then go on to score a second then they will double the odds, and if they go on to score a third they will treble the odds.
Scorecast and wincast
Scorecast and wincast bets tie in two separate betting markets to combine one bet. The scorecast is where you need to select both the correct full time score and the player who will score the first goal. The win cast is a little easier in that you need to select the first goalscorer along with the correct match result.
These types of bets are often tricky to call, but can yield some of the biggest single bet odds in football, making them both popular bets. For both bets you really need to targeting the main goal threat for a game, taking into account the brief strategy outline we mentioned in the section about.
Scorecast betting is going to be a fair bit tougher than wincast, due to the fact you need to predict the correct score. Again, apply the strategy that we used in the ‘Correct Score’ section above to this market and you shouldn’t go too far wrong. Win cast betting can apply the strategy in the ‘Match Odds’ section, along with the first goalscorer information.
Both Teams to Score – Yes/No
The Both Teams to Score (BTTS) market has arguably been the fastest growing betting market in football over the last 5 years or so. The concept is that you need to predict if both teams will score at any point in a match or alternatively, if you think that both teams wont score in a match. For example, backing BTTS yes results could include 1-1, 2-1, 2-3, 7-1 etc. just as long as both teams score at any point, the result is irrelevant. BTTS no bets might include 2-0, 0-0, 0-1, 8-0 etc. basically, any game where at least one of the teams don’t score.
When choosing BTTS yes and no bets, the strategies or the information that you need to look out for is actually quite contrasting. For BTTS yes bets you’re going to be looking for two teams that are good going forward and ideally also leaky at the back. Form doesn’t really matter with these bets, we are simply taking into account both teams offenses and defences.
For BTTS no bets we are looking for two teams with really strong defences and who don’t concede many goals. Ideally we would look at teams that are a little shy in front of goal as well, but defensively is the most important aspect initially.
The over/under bet reflects how many goals will be scored in a match. The number will be a cumulative one, meaning that both teams’ goals will contribute to the overall outcome. For example, a typical over bet would be +2.5 goals, meaning that for the bet to come in, 3 or more goals would need to be scored in that game. An under bet of -2.5 would mean that 2 or less goals would need to be scored for a successful bet.
These two bets can actually follow a similar strategy base to that of BTTS betting. When betting on a certain number of goals for an over bet we need to look at strong attacking teams and ideally a poor defensive record. When betting on the under market we need to look at two teams that both strong defensively and ideally, shy in front of goal.
Handicap betting is another market that is really growing in popularity. The concept of this market is to give one goal a theoretical advantage or disadvantage in a game, purely for betting purposes. This is usually the addition or subtraction of goals to form a handicap result.
An example of these types of bets would be backing a team at +2 goals in a match, which would then mean at full time result 2 goals would be added to their score to form the adjusted handicap score. Your bet would then be successful if the handicap would deem that team a winner. So, if the result was an actual 1-2 loss for your team, but you backed them at +2 goals, then the adjusted score line would then be 3-2, meaning your bet would win. It’s worth noting that if the adjusted handicap score line would then be a draw, the bet would be a ‘push’, meaning you would get your stake back with most bookmakers.
These types of bets are best utilised when betting on teams who are strong favourites. For example, Chelsea are priced at 2/5 to beat Sunderland. But, the odds for Chelsea at -2 goals would increase to even money, which is not a bad price in a game where you would expect Chelsea to win and to win well.
Tournament bets work in a similar way to match bets, but are based around the events that take place as a result of that specific tournament, rather then a single match.
The outright winner market will require you to choose who you think will win the tournament outright. It’s probably the most simple, yet most popular betting market of its kind, with a huge number of bets being wagered on this particular market.
Picking the outright winner for any tournament is usually a tricky prospect. Such is the competitiveness and unpredictability of football, it means that one poor game or even a single lack of concentration from your selection could cost you big time.
One of the best things you can do is a punter is to look at the draw for each tournament and try to predict how each team might fair and also who they might have to play in later rounds. For example, in Euro 2016 Belgium were able to get through to the knockout stages and managed to find themselves in a side of the draw which is very weak compared to the opposite side. This means that whilst they probably weren’t one of the favourites pre-tournament, as it’s worked out means that because they avoid all teams ranked higher than them, there is a good chance they will get to final. Once in that final, whilst likely underdogs to win it, you just never know and this is essentially how to go about finding value for these types of bets.
To reach the final
A bet placed on a team to reach the final means they need to do just that, reach the final! It’s worth pointing out that the team doesn’t need to win the final, just being there will be enough to win you these types of bets.
A similar strategy to the outright winner market can be applied for these types of bets in terms of studying the draw. With this bet you need to look at group stages as well, because from there you will be able to plan with much more confidence the route that they may take.
For this market you need to select which team you think will win a particular group. Remember that if points are tied then it will either go down to goal difference or even head to head games against second place in some events, with a group winner being named accordingly.
The group winner market likely wont yield an awful lot of value in most events, due to the fact that with these there is often a clear favourite. But, you’d likely be surprised at the number of times the pre-tournament group favourite doesn’t actually top the group due to just one bad result. It’s going to be very tough to back against the favourite though, especially with only a couple of games to be played and over a shortened format to most leagues or even the combined number of games over that specific tournament.
The top goalscorer of a tournament will be the player with the most goals throughout the event. In the event that two or more players are tied for this accolade then it usually goes down to the number of assists that player has made as a tiebreaker.
Form is often a great aspect to look at for this market and you want to be looking at players who have been either scoring regularly for their team in recent weeks/months or have a good record in that specific tournament. A nice little tip is to look at teams that you think will go far in the tournament, as the increased number of games that they paly will give players a massive advantage.
For example, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the favourites for top goalscorer in Euro 2016, but Portugal have a relatively poor team for the year and aren’t expected to go past the quarter final stage. Compare that with someone like Olivier Giroud of France; Giroud is a longer price than Ronaldo to win top goalscorer, but he’s playing in a much stronger France team that are widely tipped to win the whole tournament. Giroud is not only likely going to play more games than Ronaldo, but because of the strength of the team he is in, likely going to get more chances to score than Ronaldo, making him a much more attractive bet.
Football betting rules
There are a plethora of rules when betting on football, whilst the ones we have listed below are generic responses which most bookmakers will adhere to, each bookmaker may have their own interpretation, so if you are unsure, then it’s always best to check with them first.
Full time result
The main thing to take into account when betting on the full time result is that bets are inclusive of injury time in both the first half and second half, but generally won’t include play in extra time or penalties, should the game come down to that. For a bit to include these, you will need to look at the ‘team to progress’ market instead.
Postponed and abandoned matches
If a match has been postponed before a ball has been kicked then all that bets on that game will become void, unless the fixture is re-arranged and replayed within 7 days, when in this case the bets will simply roll over to that game. For example, a game may get postponed and move from Saturday to a Sunday for TV purposes, meaning bets will simply roll over to that game.
Games that are abandoned after they have already kicked off work a little differently this. If the bet that you have placed has already been settled then your bet will stand and any winnings will still be paid out. If the market has not been settled before the game is abandoned then these bets will be void and the stake returned to the punter. For example, if you back a player to score the first goal in a match, and a goal is scored before the game gets abandoned, then this market will be deemed as settled. But, if you wager on the outright result for that match, then obviously if the game gets abandoned this will not be settled.
Dead heat bets a re pretty uncommon in football, but can occur in a number of tournament bets, such as tournament top goalscorer for example. A dead heat is declared when two or more outcomes finishes tied in an event that can’t be split. So, if two or more players for example have the same number of total goals in a tournament, they might share the top goal scorer prize.
If this happens, and a dead heat is applied, your stake will then be divided by the number of tied winners and then your odds paid out accordingly. So, let’s say you have £10 on top goalscorer at the World Cup, where 3 players all finish tied for first. We would then divide out original stake by 3 (the number of players) to get our adjust stake of £3.33. Let’s say original odds on our bet was 10/1, this does not change in dead heat rules. Our winnings would be adjusted to £33.33 as a result.
There are times when own goals will count towards some bets and times they will not. For example, if an own goal is scored in a Both Teams To Score bet then this would count towards the overall result of that bet. But, if an own goal was scored, it would not apply to the first goalscorer bet with that bet continuing until a player has scored outright.
Some examples of markets that do include own goals are Correct Score, Scorecast, Wincast and Timecast. Examples of markets that do not include own goals are that of First/Last Goalscorer, Team First/Last Goalscorer, Player to Score Anytime and Top Goalscorer.
Each way betting
Each way betting can be used on a variety of football betting markets. The concept of an each way bet is pretty simple, in that your bet is actually split up into two sections; the first being on the result to win, and the second being on the result to finish within a certain number of places.
For example, you can use each way betting on the first goalscorer market for any match. First, half of your bet will be placed on the player to score the first goal of that match, and then other half will be placed on your player to score either the first or the second goal of the match. Remember, that to win the full bet you selection will need to score first. If they score second, then your first bet will lose and your second bet will lose. If they score third, later or not at all of your bets will lose.