Football Spread Betting
In my opinion, spread betting is the most fascinating of all football betting mediums. It has a variety, and a volatility, you will not find anywhere else.
It is also, in my opinion, the most difficult medium on which to win money. The price-makers and price-takers are both among the most sophisticated you will encounter - matched only, perhaps, by those who specialise in Asian handicaps.
Although you can spread bet on a sometimes bewildering number of events in a football match, many are related to each other. For example, goal times are related to goal totals - the times at which goals are scored are related to the total number of goals that are scored.
If you can estimate the supremacy expectation and the match goals expectation (we have discussed ways of doing this), you can estimate the team goals expectations. And with all of these, you can predicate expectations for the time of the first, second and last match goal, first and second team goals and also total goal minutes.
If the supremacy expectation is, say, 0.4, and the goals expectation is, say, 2.6, the favourites' goals expectation is (2.6 + 0.4)/2 = 1.5 and the outsiders' goals expectation is (2.6 - 0.4)/2 = 1.1. Put another way: 1.5 - 1.1 = 0.4, which is supremacy; and 1.5 + 1.1 = 2.6, which is total match goals.
So where are the individual firms weak? Probably a better way of phrasing this question would be to ask: where are the individual firms less strong?
Spread firms examine their trading records to identify markets in which they are doing less well, and where they need to improve. Anything I say here, therefore, may become obsolete with the passage of time - perhaps a quite short passage of time.
But in the summer of 2004, what I can tell you is this: Sporting Index habitually quote the time of the first match goal higher than other firms. Because the spread is three minutes wide, most of the time it still does not represent value for money to sellers. But sometimes it does. Presumably Sporting have adopted this practice because they have learnt from experience that most of their customers who play in this market want to buy.
From Sporting's point of view, why should they allow customers to buy at, say, 39, if you can get them to buy at 40 or 41, perhaps even 42?
IG Index, I think, sometimes give too much weight in their goals spreads to the past goals records of the participating teams. As I have argued before, these are comparatively unimportant.
Overall, IG must still be making money in the goals markets, otherwise they would have changed their pricing policy before now. But I still feel that sometimes they offer value for money prices to those who are able to recognise them.
Neither Cantor nor Spreadex, so far as I am aware, have a specific market of which the same can be said - though in every market they will from time to time quote a price that is wrong, just as IG and Sporting will.
The most popular football spread markets are:
Total goals For the same reasons as for goals supremacy, this market is quoted in tenths of a goal. A typical total goals quote between two sides renowned neither as prolific scorers nor as inept defenders is 2.4-2.7. If the match finishes 1-0 to either side the make-up is one and sellers at 2.4 win 1.4 times their stake while buyers lose 1.7-times theirs. If it is a 3-3 draw the make-up is six and sellers at 2.4 lose 3.6-times their stake while buyers win 3.3-times theirs.
Shirt numbers This is the aggregate of the goalscorers' shirt numbers and could be quoted at around 36-39 depending on the scoring prowess of the teams involved and their squad-number details. It makes up at zero if the match ends goalless and can occasionally total as high as 150 or greater. Sellers are always fearful of a late substitute with an astronomically high shirt number coming on and banging in a late goal.
Corners Typically pitched at around the 11-12 mark, corners are a fundamentally unappealing market simply because the make-up rarely strays far from the opening quote and the one-point spread (the gap between the sell price and the buy price) is too wide. Some punters specialise in corners, however, focusing, for example, on teams that play with a lot of width or those that statistically concede an unusually large or small number of flag kicks.
Bookings A fascinating market that works on the basis of ten points per yellow card and 25 per red card. Depending on the historical behaviour of the respective teams and the referee's penchant or otherwise for brandishing cards, the bookings may open at 38-42 for an average match. This could rise to as high as 70-74 for an Old Firm derby or typical Spanish league fixture.
Goal times These take the form of a market for the first goal in the match (typically quoted at 36-39 minutes) as well as one for each team (in the region of42-45 for a well-fancied team rising to around 69-72 for a big underdog). First goal markets make-up at 90 if no goal is scored. The time of the last goal is also quoted by most firms. This makes up at zero if the match does not feature a goal. Player goal minutes Extremely popular after taking a surprisingly long time to come into being. The main attackers and midfielders of each team are priced up, with a striker like Ruud van Nistelrooy, playing at home for Manchester United against mid-table opponents, being given a spread of around 32-35. If he does not score he makes up at zero. If he scores in the 19th and 53rd minutes he makes up at 72 (19 + 53).
Win indices A very basic market in which the punter knows exactly what his potential profit/loss is when he strikes the bet. A team's win index makes up at 25 if they win, 10 if they draw and zero if they lose.
Performance indices These are like win indices with added extras. Each firm has a different scoring tariff, but, taking Sporting Index's as an example, a team is awarded 25 points for winning, 15 per goal it scores, 10 for keeping a clean sheet, 10 per woodwork strike (the ball must rebound into play), 3 per corner, minus 5 per yellow card and minus 10 per red card. Thus, if a team wins 3-0, gains nine corners, hits the bar once, has two players booked and one sent off, its performance make-up is 97.
Performance indices are offered on all televised matches. Mini-performances are also offered for every other game. These work in a similar way but have less sophisticated scoring systems and use components that enable punters to keep tabs on what the current make-up is without having access to live pictures.
Long-term football markets The main type of long-term football spread bet is the team points market. The market-makers estimate each team's total points for that season and punters have the choice to buy, sell or agree and make no trade. At the start of a season, Arsenal points might be quoted at 75-76.5. If you think they will do well, you buy at 76.5 and if you think they will struggle you sell at 75. Firms also operate indices on each division. An index is a list of runners with a pre-determined scoring system, thus offering the punter peace of mind in that he knows his maximum possible upside and downside. A typical Premiership index will award 60 points to the team that finishes first, 40 to the eventual runners-up, 30 for the team that is third, 20 for fourth place, 10 for fifth and 5 for sixth. Chelsea might be quoted at 25-28. If you buy at 28 and they win the title you make 32 times your stake (60-28=32). If you sell at 25 and they finish fourth you win five times your stake (25-20 = 5).