Money Lines and Bankrolls: The Short History of Football Betting

By Guest writer, Fri 08 December 2017 16:38

Money Lines and Bankrolls: The Short History of Football Betting 

Each August, Premier League fans all over the world brace themselves to witness the kickoff of a new season. Their favourite teams line up on the field, the whistle blows, and the action begins - along with the rooting for one team or another. This year, it seems, Sky Blues fans are in for a treat (unless things change, which is always a possibility), and their bets seem to be paying off. Because August doesn't only mean the start of the Premier League season; it also means the beginning of the betting season. Those familiar with the business head over to their usual bookmakers, others start to learn how to bank it or blow it when betting on sports. But things weren't always like this. 30 years ago, sports betting was a very different business altogether.

Betting on which sports

Throughout the better part of the 20th century, sports betting was really about two sports: horse racing and greyhound racing. The betting shops themselves were very different back then: they were edgy establishments, resembling rougher pubs, with not even as much as a screen to follow the races people would bet on. Besides, there was a tax applied to each bet placed, which made these venues even less welcoming for the everyday folk.

Things started to gradually change in the late 1980s when the first shop televisions were introduced. Betting shops started to stay open until later and on the weekends, too, and the betting tax also disappeared until the early 2000s.

From sports pools to proper betting

Until the early 1990s, pools were the only mainstream form of betting on football. But things changed when Sky Sports took over the rights to transmit matches from England's top division. Unlike ITV, Sky transmitted one live game every Sunday and another one every Monday. This has opened up a huge opportunity for bookmakers to promote their services - but they were a bit slow to react, with the conditions of placing bets on matches being a bit strange. For one, the team had to play live on TV in order for a punter to be able to place a bet on it individually - any other game had to be combined with two more for the bet to be accepted.

Things have started to change in the mid-1990s, with in-play betting being introduced - and with the increase of matches transmitted live, this has sparked a huge interest on the side of the punters. But the real breakthrough came when betting found its way to the internet.

Online betting

Betting has been "liberated" by finding its way to the internet. The traditional betting shop has been replaced by accessible, convenient online outlets accepting bets at any time, quickly and easily - and finally, punters didn't have to leave home (or put on pants, for that matter) to be able to place a bet. Today, online betting is a staple part of the weekend for an incredible variety of fans all over the country. From an ignored sport, football has become the most important asset for betting companies, and a lucrative one, too - the 2014 FIFA World Cup alone has meant a turnover of around £1 billion for the UK alone. Betting on sports is a mainstream activity today, betting shops are to be found on the high street, and are easily accessible on smartphones and computers. And the majority of bets in Europe are placed on football.