Football is big business; from multi-million pound sponsorship deals, to outrageous transfer fees and astronomical weekly wages for the top players, there has never been more money in football than now.
Fans are a major source of this revenue for top-flight teams. They invest in season tickets, subscribe to premium sports channels, and buy new home and away kits every season. Each new signing is followed intently, with loyalty cheered and grudges held against any player who moves onto pastures new at the end of the season. Football has become the religion of our times, with supporters keen to show support for their clubs at every opportunity.
Betting operators have made the most of the dedication of the fans to their teams, and offer plenty of scope for fans and gamblers alike to get even more invested in the sport. Many punters will base their wagers on informed betting tips, but many fans will put a bet on their own club at the start of every season as a show of support, despite the chances of winning the bet essentially pot luck.
Leicester are top performers
Most sporting wagers are for smaller £5-£10 sums with few expecting to win more than a few hundred pounds, but every punter still dreams of winning big. The biggest ever football bet ever was offered in the 2015/16 Premier League season, with odds of 5000/1 of Leicester City winning. With just 25 bets placed at these odds, the losses for the operators at the end of Leicester’s record-breaking season stood at over £3 million, with those that held their nerve cashing out big numbers.
One punter who placed a £75 bet eventually cashed out when his winnings rose to over £112,000, whilst another fan cashed out his £50 bet for £72,000 rather than gambling on waiting to the end of the season for a possible £250,000. One other Leicester fan, who bet just £5 cashed out 2/5th of his initial bet for £5,468, scooped a further £15,000 with the remainder at the end of the season and has gone on to place further bets on Leicester repeating this feat.
Accumulators add up
Other fans have seen even bigger gains from correctly predicting (or guessing) accumulators, where the odds of various bets multiplied together can create some very unlikely but possibly highly lucrative scenarios.
One football fan made his fortune in the 2000/01 season placing a mere 30p on a fifteen-fold accumulator at odds of 1.6 million to one, correctly predicting the eventual winners of the Premier League, Champions League, League One, League Two, National League, Scottish Championship, Scottish League One, Scottish League Two, and some ruby and cricket matches for good measure. He also placed predictions on specific games, and his win came down to the wire, with Bayern Munich beating Valencia in the Champions League final by the skin of their teeth on penalties. His initial 30p wager paid out half a million pounds, making the punter wish that they had placed considerably more. Funnily enough, just two years previously, the same individual had won just under £200,000 on a similar accumulator bet.
In 2011, one football fan placed a £2.50 bet on a 9 game accumulator, surprisingly backing a number of underdog teams such as Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers, as well as betting against some of the top names in Spanish football at the time including Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso. However, despite the apparent randomness of the choices, the best paid off, landing the individual a whopping £272,000 pay-out.
Finally, we have the story of an unnamed housewife from Kent who won almost £600,000 from a £1 accumulator bet despite having absolutely no interest in football or knowledge about the sport. She told reporters she decided to place the bet as she was bored of having to watch the football with her husband and son and wanted a way to make it more interesting for herself. She picked the winners seemingly at random, with no consideration for previous form, league placing, or players. Nonetheless, she certainly found a new love for the beautiful game that day, securing one of the largest wins from a £1 bet in UK history.
As well an individual winners and accumulators, some punters will go as far as betting on specific things happening in single games – known as proposition bets. Adrian Hayward, a Liverpool fan, placed a £200 bet at 125-1 odds on Xabi Alonso scoring a goal from within his own half in the 2005/06 season. Alonso already had form of taking shots from his own half, but such shots rarely come off. However, in a game against Luton Town, the goalkeeper came out for a Luton corner and Alonso just went for it, netting not only a goal but also £25,000 for Hayward.
In Euro 2016, one operator was running a £1 million Goal Competition, with punters placing bets on who would score the winning goal of the competition. One Aston Villa fan placed a £5 bet on Eder scoring the winning goal for Portugal, and when he did indeed score in the 109th minute of the final against France, the lucky fan became an instant millionaire.
Those with a passion for the game are more likely to be winners, as they will have a deeper knowledge and a better ability to predict the winning team. However, fans may have their judgement clouded by their love for their own team and may back them despite knowing deep down that the opposition are a superior outfit. It’s all a game of chance in the end, and to win big it is the unlikely bets that need to come true.