As silly season is upon us, with most people nicking off to their ‘business lunches’ early and coming back, if at all, in a state of disrepair – betting news is, for want of a better word, slowing down.
Fortunately, though, such liquid luncheons often fuel some the most inspired betting business ideas. For example, Get Shirty, which was Blue Square’s genius football shirt numbers betting game, was an idea spawned, I am reliably informed, in a hostelry around this time of year.
The name of the game, as its moniker might suggest, was to repay anyone who placed a single bet of at least £10 on the football match in question the amount in pounds of the number worn by any player sent off in said match.
So, for example, if you bet £10 on Michael Owen to score the first goal in Liverpool v Bolton but, say Nicolas Anelka (shirt No39) got sent off in the game, you would receive £39 back from the bookie.
The oddsmakers at Blue Square were not best pleased when Diomansy Kamara (No21) was sent off in the match in which Get Shirty was launched. In the tamest of south-coast derbies with Southampton, the striker senselessly picked up two bookings in a minute for a negligable foul and dissent – prompting a big payout for the punters.
Unfazed by the setback, the marketing boys at the Square pressed on, deciding that although they had made a loss on the match, interest had been sufficiently pricked to continue with their plan: – offer Get Shirty for the big title showdown at Highbury between Arsenal and Manchester United.
The marketing men were right about one thing. There was plenty of interest. In fact, more bets were placed on this one match than any previous football match – including England v Brazil in the 2002 World Cup quarter-final.
The spat in the tunnel before the match between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira lit the blue touch paper – and the match was littered with fouls and ill-feeling throughout the first half. However, the bookmaker looked like it had got away with the offer as the players calmed down, concentrated on the match in hand and played out a thrilling 4-2 win for United.
And they had got away with it. Until United’s Silvestre, who now plays for Arsenal, took it upon himself to headbutt Freddie Ljungberg right in front of the referee. Result: red card. Shirt Number: 27. Payout: £40,000 for the punters.
Although on the face of it, Get Shirty looked like a disastrous idea for Blue Square, it cemented their reputation as an innovative bookmaker willing to marry creativity and cheekiness with punter-friendly offers. The oddsmakers certainly did get shirty with the marketers, but the punters returned in their droves – looking to cash in on other such offers. And there were plenty more.
Unfortunately, when it comes to innovative bookmaking Blue Square has long since given way to the likes of Paddy Power, who are currently offering odds on ‘Which United player threw a mince pie at Sir Alex Ferguson at the Christmas Party’ and ‘Which celebrity will be the first to get arrested on drugs charges in 2010’.
Boylesports also deserve a mention for offering pure value. Boyles went eight places each way for The Open golf championship this year. That was an offer which earned the custom of this particular punter – and I don’t mind admitting that they’ve since won far more off me since.
So bookmakers, don’t pooh-pooh your latest brainwave just because it came over a pint of Guinness. At this time of year it is wise to remember that the pub is the cradle of innovation. Cheers.