Betting on football is huge business, with around £1bn having been wagered on the 2014 World Cup alone. And for millions of people around the world (ourselves included) a cheeky wager on the beautiful game brings an extra level of excitement to this wonderful sport.
With the ever-growing number of online bookies the choices facing a punter today can be overwhelming and here we take a look at some of the options for betting on football, as well as the best betting sites to use in terms of their betting odds and offers.
There are now more football leagues around the world covered by bookmakers than ever before, with more markets, more promotions and even better free bets. In other words, we punters are spoiled for choice as rival bookmakers try to outdo one another to win the custom of football betting fans… happy days indeed!
Best Bookmakers For Betting On Football
Football is the most popular sport on which to bet, not just in the UK but in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world too. As such, almost any online bookie worth their salt offers a fantastic service for football bettors, but here we take a look at only the crème de la crème, the best of the best.
The owner of BetVictor is man with a long history in British bookmaking and a reputation as the “Gentleman Bookmaker”. For football fans that means two things: great odds and a bookie not afraid to take a large wager. Indeed, BetVictor once accepted a bet from fellow bookie Fred Done of Betfred (see below) that Man United would finish above Chelsea – they didn’t and BetVictor won a cool £1m!
Whilst you might not stake that much, one thing is for sure with BetVictor: their odds are first class. Independent research from the 2013-14 season showed them as having the best Premier League match odds overall out of 17 major bookies, as well as top odds for the FA Cup, Champions League, Championship and Europa League. Impressive stuff and definitely a great reason to choose BetVictor for your football bets – over the course of a whole season slightly higher odds on each bet can make a huge difference to your overall profit. BetVictor also boasts a huge range of markets and some nice features, including great mobile and in-play suites.
Coral are a long-established bookie with roots that stretch back to the 1920s and like all British high street bookies, football is a major speciality. There is nothing to fault in the football betting provision, with odds that are well above average, more than 100 markets as standard even on lower league English action and many more for the Premier League and a dedicated football “zone” that allows quick and easy access to all the major markets, as well as upcoming and in-play events. The in-play console works nicely too, with a decent range of backup stats and customisation features including multi-view and several tools to help you organise your bets.
Betfred owner Fred Done calls himself the Bonus King and so it’s no surprise to see that Betfred are brilliant when it comes to offers and freebies and given Fred is a huge Man United fan (see BetVictor section above for his lost £1m bet!) many of the best offers focus on football. However, Betfred also offer top odds – especially on the Premier League and more specifically on the Red Devils – and cover just about every football league and market you can think of, including loads of specials (though these aren’t quite as strong as at Sky Bet).
Fred is also known for pioneering new bet types – he invented the Lucky 15 – and Betfred’s Goals Galore (BTTS) and other markets like 30 Minute Limit will really appeal to punters who like something a little bit different in their football betting. The in-play console is excellent, as is the mobile site and both are nice extras that many football fans will find extremely useful (especially in the pub!).
One final thing to note is that Betfred has been known to go a little crazy when it comes to his beloved Man United, twice paying out early on the Red Devils to win the league only to see them beaten to the title (in 1998 and 2012 when they were pipped by Arsenal and Man City respectively). As if that wasn’t enough, he refunded losing bets on them to win the title in 2014 following David Moyes’ disastrous season in charge – United fans (and others), take note!
How To Bet On Football
Betting on football is really easy and great fun but with so many different markets, not to mention some unusual terminology, it can seem confusing at first. However, our guide to the main markets and the key rules to watch out for will help you out and within a week or two you’ll be as confident as Rickie Lambert over a penalty!
As said, there are so many options when it comes to betting on football, with up to 200 different markets on some big games, as well as the options for accumulators, multiple bets, outrights and in-play bets, not to mention ante post! Here we take a look at the most popular options when it comes to betting on football, although with so many different bets available we recommend checking out one of the sites listed above to see what takes your fancy.
- Match Odds – This may also go by the name of 90 minute betting, 1×2 or simply “Win” and is perhaps the most popular bet to place on a game of football. It simply involves picking who will win the match, or whether it will be a draw. It really couldn’t be much simpler and is a bet that is commonly used for accumulators, combining the results of a number of matches into one single bet.
- Correct Score – Another nice easy one and a great choice if you’re looking to win big from a small stake because the odds are usually high, reflecting the difficulty of predicting the exact score in a particular match.
- Goalscorer Bets – Betting on which player will score is another bet that usually offers long odds. You can usually bet on a named player to be the first, last or anytime goalscorer, the latter option at significantly shorter odds than the first two. See our rules section below for more information on own goals.
- Half Time/Full Time – Often abbreviated to HT/FT this bet necessitates predicting who will be ahead at the break (or if it will be a draw) and what the outcome will be at the final whistle. A good way to up the standard match odds, especially if you predict an easy win for one side, where, for example, you might back Liverpool/Liverpool (so the Reds to be ahead at half time and full time).
- Both Teams to Score – Often abbreviated to BTTS, this market is fun and exciting. It’s simple to understand too – if both teams score, that is to say neither ends the game with zero goals, the bet wins, or where there was a yes or no choice, the “yes” bet wins. Any score from 1-1 upwards lands a bet on “yes” and because the odds are usually around evens this is a common bet to include in an accumulator. A recent addition to this market combines the match odds as described above and BTTS, so you might, for example, bet on “Arsenal to win and both teams to score”, another good way of upping the standard match odds.
- Under/Over – Under/Over betting usually refers to betting on the total goals in a game, though other options may be given. The standard total is under/over 2.5 goals, meaning two goals and less or three goals and more but options from 0.5 goals up to 7.5 goals – or even more – are available.
- Outright Betting – Outright betting refers to wagers made on who will win a particular event, rather than a single game. You may, for instance, bet on who will win the Premier League, which player will be the top goalscorer at a World Cup or who will win the FA Cup. These bets can be great fun as they often provide excitement over a longer period with lots of movements in the market and the chances of your bet winning changing as the season/competition develops.
- Accumulators – Accumulators have been mentioned above and involve combining a number of unrelated selections into a single bet, whereby all legs of the wager have to win in order for the bet to be successful. Popular accumulators include backing the big Premier League sides (for example City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal – sorry Man United fans!) all to win on a given weekend, predicting the winners of all four divisions of English football at the start of the season or selecting a number of games in which you think both teams will score. The odds from each selection are multiplied with the stake from one leg rolling over onto the next, meaning winnings can be huge but, of course, landing such an accumulator, even one for four big favourites to win, isn’t as easy as it may sound.
Betting on football is, essentially a simple and straightforward matter. Most online bookies have the same basic rules and whilst anomalies can crop up (either at lesser bookies or when something very unusual like an abandonment happens), in general your betting should be hassle free. Of course, as with most things in life, there are rules and as long as you know the basic ones you should avoid any nasty shocks. So, here are the essentials…
- 90 Minutes – Most bets, unless specified, apply to 90 minutes plus injury time but not to extra time, penalties or replays. So a bet on Spurs to win 2-1 in the FA Cup that finishes 1-1 but Spurs win 2-1 in extra time would settle as a loser. Likewise a game that ends 0-0 and Lionel Messi scores the first goal in extra time would not be a winning bet for any Messi goalscorer bets.
- Own Goals – Own goals do not count for a number of markets, including first, last or anytime goalscorer. As such, if the only goal – or goals – in a game are own goals than the winning selection is actually “No goalscorer”. This bet is often priced at the same odds as 0-0 but offers more value as it may also pay out even if the game doesn’t end 0-0. Own goals are completely disregarded for scorer markets, so the first legitimate goal after an own goal will win a first goalscorer bet whilst the one before an own goal will win the last goalscorer market (assuming the own goal is the last goal of the game). Note that for both teams to score, over/under, match results and most others markets own goals count as normal.
- Abandoned and Postponed Games – Games hit by weather, crowd trouble or other unforeseen eventualities will be subject to the bookies’ rules and these vary from firm to firm and depend on the competition, if and when the game is replayed and how many minutes had been played when the game was called off. This is such a rare occurrence however that most punters won’t need to worry about it.
- Dead Heats – Dead heats also rarely occur but can impact certain outright bets, for example top goalscorer markets or stage of elimination bets in cups. Where two or more teams or players tie this is often settled as a dead heat, meaning the stake is divided by the number of players/teams involved in the tie, with one portion being settled as a winner and one as a loser. Dead heats can apply to all sports but this is definitely one to watch on top goalscorer bets in football.
In this next section we’ll take a look at the bigger football tournaments which offer some of the biggest betting value, especially when it comes to bookies offers and promotions.
The Champions League is the pinnacle of domestic football for European countries. The tournament is made up of the highest ranked teams from across Europe and they will play through a series of qualification stages until we come down to one winner. The tournament has been running in its current form since 1992, but it’s actually been in existence since 1955 where it was then known as the European Cup.
The Champions League kicks off with a preliminary qualifying stages where teams made up from lower ranked member associations and also teams who have lower rankings in more established leagues will play through a knockout stage before reaching the Champions League proper.
The main competition is made starts off with 8 groups of four and each team will play each other twice. The top two teams fro each group will then move forward into the knockout stage and again play each tie over two legs (both home and away). The format goes in the order of a last 16, quarterfinal, semi-final and final. It’s worth noting that the final is played over just one game played at a neutral venue decided before the tournament begins.
Real Madrid are the most decorated club in the competitions history winning it no fewer than 11 times (5 times as the Champions League), with their latest success coming in 2016. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored the most goals with 93 from just 127 appearances, with Iker Casillas having the most appearances with 156.
The FA Cup is the oldest cup competition in the world. The tournament dates back to 1871 and since then has gone on to be one the biggest domestic trophies in England. What’s so unique about the FA Cup is that it’s open to as low as level 10 in the English domestic game, giving a fantastic opportunity for some low level professional and even amateur teams to potentially play some of the biggest teams in the country. It’s for this reason why many people talk about the ‘magic of the FA Cup’ and also why it throws up so many shock results over the years.
The tournament will go through a number of preliminary rounds allowing the lower ranked clubs in the country to compete. These actually start as early as August, but the first round of the competition proper doesn’t actually start until November. All games will be played over 1 leg and drawn from random for each round.
The competition really starts to pick up in the third round, which is the first round that the Premier League teams will get introduced and these will be played usually in the first weekend of January. It’s here where many of the smaller teams will be hoping for a tie against much higher opposition in the return of their ’15 minutes of fame’.
The completion then works it’s way through tot the sixth round before then playing semi-final and final, both which are now played at Wembley Stadium. The winners of the tournament will gain entry into the Europa League. If the team that wins has already gained entry to either this or the Champions League, then the runners-up will be awarded the prize. The winners also get to play in the Community Shield – curtain raiser for the Premier League – against the previous seasons winners of the Premier League.
The two most decorated teams to have won the FA Cup are Arsenal and Manchester United, with 12 wins apiece. These two teams also have the most final appearances with 19. Ashley Cole of Chelsea and Arsenal has won the tournament the most times with 7.
The European Championship is the leading tournament for countries that have representatives within UEFA (Union of European Football Associations). The tournament is very similar to that of the World Cup, apart from, obviously is only made up of European Countries. The tournament has been played since 1960 and will take place in June/July time held every 4 years. The hosts will go through a bidding process and then the venue for each tournament is decided by a vote from officials within UEFA.
The first phase of getting into the tournament is going through the qualifying groups. All teams must enter this away, apart from the host country, which automatically qualify. The qualifying stages are made up of 6 groups of 6 teams and 3 groups of 5 teams, making 9 groups in total. Each country will play the other countries in their group twice, once home and once away, then the top two countries will qualify automatically and the top 5 best placed 3rd place finishers along with them.
The final tournament will include 24 teams in total, spread across 6 groups. The countries will include several ranked teams, which cannot be drawn against each other and then the rest of the teams are draw at random. Each team will play against each other just once in the group stage, before the top 2 teams and 4 best placed 3rd places will move into the last 16. It’s at this stage where the tournament moves into the knockout stage, working it’s way though the quarterfinal, semi-final and then final.
Germany and Spain are the two most decorated countries in the Euro’s with 3 wins apiece. Iker Casillas holds the record for the most tournaments played with 5 and Michel Platini is the all-time top goalscorer in a single tournament with 9.
The (FIFA) World Cup isn’t just regarded as the biggest tournament in the footballing calendar, but it’s widely regarded as one of the biggest occasions in world sport. The tournament brings together 32 of the top footballing nations from across the globe and is the only tournament where countries play on an intercontinental basis, rather than just a geographically limited one. The World Cup usually takes place in June/Jul time and is run every 4 years. The host country’s will go through a bidding process to host the tournament before a number of delegates and officials from within FIFA then vote on which they think will be best suited for the role.
The qualification rounds for the tournament are broken up into 6 continental zones, which include Africa, Asia, North and Central American and Caribbean, South America, Oceania and Europe. The format for each zones qualifying phase will differ, with some electing go down the more conventional group format with a certain number from each group qualifying. Whilst others adopt a league format with a certain number of spots each getting a place. The decision to choose either is usually abased on the overall quality of each continent and then taken from there.
The tournament itself will include 32 countries in total in a mix of 8 groups of 4 teams. Each team from within the group will play each other just once and the top two teams from each group then progressing to the last 16 of the competition. It’s at this point that the tournament becomes a round robin, knockout phase and the winners will be decided on the day, using extra time and penalties if needed. You will then see a quarterfinal, semi final and final, before the inner is crowned. The World Cup will also run a 3rd/4th place play off for the two losing teams of the semi-final.
Brazil are the most decorated team in World Cup history winning the tournament on 5 separate occasions. Germany and Italy are both second with 4 wins each. Miroslav Klose of Germany has the most cumulative tournament goals with 16, ahead of the likes of Ronaldo (15), Gerd Muller (14), Just Fontaine (13) and Pele (12).
The Europa League is one of the pinnacles of the domestic season for teams across Europe. The best way to look at it is almost like a baby version in the Champions League, made up from teams that are slightly lower ranked than those in their bigger sister competition. The format is a little longer than the Champions League however, with qualifying rounds starting as early as June and the final then taking place in May. The games are played at the representative teams home grounds then the final will be selected at a neutral venue each season by a panel of UEFA representatives.
The Europa League is widely regarded as starting when the Group Stages kick off, which includes 48 teams, spread across 12 separate groups. In each group the teams will play against each other both home and away and from there the top 2 teams will progress to knockout stages. It’s also at this point where the 8 teams who finished third in their Champions League groups will enter the competition and it them plays out as a straight knockout over two legs between each team. The final is the only leg that will just be one round, and as mentioned, will be played a neutral location.
Sevilla are the most decorated team in the competition, winning it on 5 separate occasions from 2006 to 2016. The all-time leading scorer is that of Sweden’s, Henrik Larsson, with a return of 40 goals from just 56 games. Giuseppe Bergomi of Italy and Inter has the most appearances with 96 games, excluding qualifying games. Ajax has the highest win with a mammoth 14-0 victory over Red Boys in 1984.
The League Cup has often been overs overshadowed in England as the inferior tournament to that of the FA Cup, but it carries just as much weight in the fact that the winning team will gain entry into the Europa League, the same as if they won the FA Cup. The cup includes all 92 teams from the football league and there is no qualifying needed to gain entry, you just need to be a member of the football league.
The competition starts and finishes with a straight knockout format, but many of the Premier League teams will not enter until the second and third rounds, respectively. The round that they do enter will depend on the position that they finished in the league the previous season. Once all team are in the round-robin really kicks off and it works it’s way down to the quarterfinal, semi-final and final, which is played at Wembley, usually around March time, a couple of months before the end of the English season.
Liverpool has won the competition more times than any other club since it came into fruition in 1960. They have 8 cups to their name, with the next best that of Aston Villa and Chelsea, both with 5 each. Ian Rush is the most decorated player with 5 League Cup wins and is also joint top goalscorer with Sir Geoff Hurst with 49 goals apiece. Liverpool also have the biggest team win, beating Fulham 10-0 in 1986, which equalled West Ham’s 10-0 victory over Bury in 1983.
The Copa America is the most prestigious tournament in the South American footballing calendar. The competition is also the oldest South American sporting event, with the first Copa America being held in 1916. Whilst South American countries make up the majority of nations in the event, in more recent years they have opened their doors to allow countries from North America and Asia to compete. The tournament comes at the end of the footballing season, starting in June and finishing in July run every 4 years.
Unlike a lot of major football tournaments, there is no immediate qualifying for the event, instead countries are invited to play. In days gone by there was no host nation and teams just played each other home and away, but these days a host nation is selected by CONCACAF, the governing body for football in South America. There are 12 teams that play and they compete in 3 groups of 4 teams. Teams are allocated groups by seeds (one including the host nation) then are ranked on World FIFA Points accordingly.
Two teams from each group and the two highest ranked runners up will advance to knockout stage, before working their way through to final. Uruguay is the most decorated nation to have played the event with 15 wins in total, Argentina following them closely in second with 14 wins, respectively.
Football Betting Tips
We provide tips for all matches from the biggest leagues and cups, see the relevant page below for more information: