How Does Football Betting Work?

While the 2019-20 Premier League season is now upon us, punters can still log on to sportsbooks and place bets on the previous year’s matches. The most popular sport to watch and wager on is undoubtedly football – the world’s favourite sport. Here’s a guide to helping you make the most of your sporting fixations.

History Of Football Bets

The first record of someone placing a wager on the results of a football match is thought to date back to 1884. Odds were initially high – 5/1 – but in the ensuing years, this has since decreased as people have gotten more savvy. In the 2010s, the most popular odds to win the Premier League were 3/1 and 2/1 respectively. Today, with punters favouring higher-scoring games and eSports becoming mainstream, the odds on most markets are somewhere between 2/1 and 5/1.

Why Should You Bet On Football?

Punters often say that there’s something about football that makes it special – the crowd, the strategies, the fact that it’s not a “sporting” event like other sports. While there’s certainly something to each of these elements, we think that it’s best classified as a combination of all of them. Let’s explore.

The Crowds

When you watch a football match, the atmosphere is often what you’ll remember the most. The game isn’t nearly as interesting as it is when there’s a large crowd – the passion that fans display for a team often makes the game itself feel smaller. It’s a well-known fact that the Latin word for “crowd” is “multitude”, which is fitting as there are often many different motivations for why someone might want to bet on a football game. It could be because they’re keen on a certain team or player, it could be because they enjoy watching high-scoring games, or maybe it’s just a matter of wanting to make some money off something they believe in. Whatever the case, there’s usually plenty for someone to get behind whether their favourite team wins or loses.

The Strategies & Tech Behind The Scenes

Strategies in football are numerous and can vary from the type of player you want to watch out for to the team you think is most likely to score. These elements make it much more interesting and rewarding for a bettor as you may well be able to pick up an ‘in-play’ bet that has just gone through several permutations during the game. If you’re looking for an easy way to make fast money, all you have to do is follow the scores and you’ll win your money back plus some. If, however, you’re looking to place a wager with some history behind it, then read on.

The History Of Football Bets

Although there’s no concrete evidence to suggest it, the first football predictions were made by British newspaper The Sporting Chronicle back in 1884. Based on the form book (an early form of a statistical analysis tool) that the team passed down from year to year, the editors would choose four teams that they thought were most likely to compete for the championship. Their picks were, of course, wrong – none of the teams they chose ended up winning the league, with the closest being Newcastle United and Derby County. Over the next few decades, people would try and replicate this feat, with most attempts failing miserably. It wasn’t until the 20th century that predictions began to take on a more scientific edge and in 1921 that selections were based on a team’s odds of winning the match. The following year, a group of British entrepreneurs founded the Bookmakers’ Association in an attempt to regulate and standardise betting laws across the country. Things didn’t go smoothly and a number of scandals involving bookmakers and crooked gamblers broke out during the 1930s and ’40s, causing a public backlash. One of the biggest scandals involved the team of Harry Gamble in 1941. Gamble arrived at the match day venue at Upton Park a few minutes before the start of the match expecting to make some money. He was met by some of the other attendees who immediately arrested him on suspicion of corruption. He was later freed after the evidence against him was found to be highly circumstantial.


While the NFL is the most popular American football league, it’s actually a collection of different competitions that were previously held individually. The first National Football League Championship Game was played on December 31, 1920 in Chicago and featured football’s first black player, George Gipp. The game was played between the champion Cleveland Tigers and the champion Chicago White Stockings and was attended by 15,000 people, many of whom had to watch the game on a snowy outdoor screen as the city’s indoor stadium was not yet ready.

The National Association of College Football (known as the NCAA) was officially founded in June, 1894 as the Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The goal of the association was to create a national governing body for college football that would unify the sport across the country. One of the biggest differences between the NFL and the NCAA is that the latter only allows for 12 football teams to play in its tournament, with the National Football League hosting a 16-team football playoff every year. This is because the NCAA limits the number of teams that can participate – only the winning team is granted an invitation to the post-season while the other 9 teams are excluded. This severely limits the money that can be made from betting on NCAA games as there’s less of a variance in the results. If your team wins, most bookmakers will offer you odds of only 2/1 or 3/1, as there’s little point in risking more than this considering that the team you’re backing will almost certainly win.

The UEFA Nations League

Another big difference between the NFL and the NCAA, which you’ll often hear football enthusiasts discuss, is the fact that the UEFA Nations League allows for 24 teams to compete. This is because the international governing body for football – UEFA – allows for multiple teams from the same country to play against one another. The 24-team league format was introduced in 2017 and it’s the same format that will be used in the upcoming season. The only difference is that the competing nations are grouped together by continent rather than country and the top four teams from each continent (Asia, Europe, North America and Oceanic) will progress to the semi-finals. The winners of these matches will then meet in the final. The draw for the group stage was held in October with the following four teams competing for the right to play in the final;

Russia – hosts

Portugal – winners of Group A

Italy – winners of Group B

Argentina – winners of Group C

Nations are ranked based on their overall performance across the four games and since the inaugural season, Portugal has been Europe’s top finisher with 10 wins and two draws from 14 matches. Interestingly, both Russia and Italy have scored 12 goals without conceding a single one – a positive starting point.

Types Of Football Bets

There’s more than one way to make money from betting on football and with the increased popularity of eSports and the legalization of sports betting in certain US states, there are more opportunities than ever before. Here are just a few of them.

  • Over/Under – make a wager on whether the total number of goals will be scored or conceded by the two teams involved in the match. For example, will the Over/Under 2.5 goal market be hit or miss?
  • Match Betting – place a wager on the result of the particular match that you’re watching. For instance, will Team A win or lose by a particular margin?
  • In-Play Betting – get in-play action when a bet is in progress during a match. For example, will Player X be awarded a penalty shot in the next five minutes?
  • Match Handicap – lay a wager on the result of the game involving two evenly matched teams. For instance, will Team A win by two goals or more?

Where Can I Place My Bet?

In 2019, you’ll be able to place bets at a variety of licensed sportsbooks that cater specifically to US football fans. For those who reside in the UK, it’s also possible to use betting apps to place bets on international matches. The largest international sports betting marketplace, Betway, for example, allows customers from the UK to place bets on more than 70 different sports, including football. In the US, you’ll typically find that all bets are accepted (excluding certain states and territories where sports betting is prohibited). In the UK, bookmakers sometimes struggle to put bets through due to security checks. As a result, you may have to wait a short while before your bet is accepted.