Betting on Scottish Football Matches

Scottish Football Matches

To many people there are only two teams in Scotland. I probably don't need to tell you that the pair are Celtic and Rangers. Yet, while it is true that they have dominated the top division and the two cups for most of the last century, from a betting perspective there are 40 other clubs to consider.

To start, though, we'll look at the Old Firm. They attract most of the money and provide the majority of the live TV action. Backing them regularly is not an easy road to riches, which will surprise few people despite their stranglehold. Although you would have made a very small profit supporting them religiously to the same stake during seasons 2002-03 and 2003-04, it is a high-risk strategy for little reward and is not recommended.

Unless you fancy their opponents at a nice price, the best way to bet in games involving the Glasgow giants is to look for a correct-score bet. In Alex McLeish's first 18 months in charge of the Gers they won 14 of their 25 matches at Ibrox 2-0 or 3-0. This sequence broke down in 2003-04 when their defence was leaking goals, but it goes to show that it is possible to detect trends that can bear fruit, albeit not forever.

Overall, punters tend to lose less money backing away sides than home sides. This is in no small part down to the fact that home advantage is worth far less in Scotland than in England and other major European leagues, and decreases as you go down the divisions. Figures for home advantage are about 0.35 goals in the SPL, 0.25 in Division One, 0.2 in Division Two and 0.15 in Division Three.

Data analysis shows that in the first four seasons of the new millennium only in the SPL would you have lost less money backing homes than aways, suggesting that while home advantage is overestimated in the lower leagues, the reverse is true in the top division. Due to the margin added to the bookmakers' prices, just backing home teams in the SPL or away sides in the lower leagues makes no long-term profit. There is a useful way to use this information, though.

Backing the Hotpots Many people consider backing teams at long odds-on an easy route to financial ruin, but they may be tempted to reconsider when they learn that of the teams starting at 1-5 or shorter in the first four seasons of the 21st century, 97 of 99 won (many in the form of Celtic or Rangers), giving a profit of £13.57 to a £1 stake.

Overall, backing favourites is preferable to backing outsiders as a clear favourite-longshot bias exists in Scottish football. This indicates that the favourite wins more often than the market suggests, hence there is value to be had by backing the shorter-priced side.

One of the possible reasons given for this is that due to a difficulty in ascertaining team news, bookmakers are more wary of outsiders in lower-league Scottish football than they are of the favourites. It is not unheard of for a team to be weakened by the fact that one of the players is getting married on a particular Saturday and that some of his team-mates are missing the match to attend the ceremony. Layers would sooner that happened to a team that is 8-1 than a supposed 2-9 good thing.

In the five seasons between 1999 and 2004 you would have made a profit from blindly backing all away sides who started favourite. Given that away sides offer better value and that a favourite-longshot bias exists, it comes as no surprise that these teams do very well. When you find an in-form side you want to follow, you are likely to increase your profit margin by waiting until they are away to a lower-placed side.