Sportsbetting and the English Premier League go together like rhubarb and custard, like strawberries and cream, like peanut butter and jelly. However, just like those sugary treats, too much sportsbetting can be bad for your health. Video Assistant Referee (VAR) may just have worsened the problem for U.K. based gambling markets.
With the rise of sportsbetting in British football something that has even led to law changes over recent years, stopping betting advertisers putting their message in between the minutes before kick-off and the half-time break, VAR’s introduction in the world’s most high-profile club league in the summer has been something of a controversy.
With the system not fully tested, the decisions taking too long to come from the referee and his VAR team, players, teams, managers and fans have felt let down by the intervention of something so robotic, so precisely correct in a game that was always best when it was, at its heart, chaotic.
Football may have been adversely affected by VAR, but what about the betting side of things? Well, some punters got lucky back in August… although the same situation won’t happen again.
It was at The Etihad Stadium where Manchester City and Tottenham were drawing 2-2. The Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus scored what he believed was a perfectly legitimate goal in the dying minutes, only for it to be ruled out for a handball against the luckless Aymeric Laporte, a player who has since missed the majority of the season through injury.
Cue confusion. Guardiola was confused, Pochettino was amused, Spurs were reprieved, City were denied. Liverpool were over the moon and back again. But in the interim period, bettors on SkyBet who saw the odds change for City to win were able to cash out significant amounts of winnings before the situation was altered… along with the odds.
VAR has since become so confusing, laborious and pedestrian that all bets are suspended during the process of a goal being ‘scored’ and the VAR system being completed. The TV armchair fan no longer gets a jump on the officials, and VAR doesn’t cost the bookies so much instant money.
It still has a huge effect on what happens every week on online betting sites.
While the decisions made at Stockley Park near Heathrow are impacting the Premier League more and more, how has that changed the betting markets on the games themselves? In the first few weeks, penalties and red cards were slightly more prevalent, but it seems that in recent months, players have noticed the fact that they’re being watched in every second of every game and cannot – literally – put a foot wrong without it being noticed at the time.
Ask yourself why Nemanja Matic has enjoyed such little game time at Manchester United. Is it because he is a slow, monolithic unit with the turning circle of a ten-tonne truck in reverse? Well, yes. But it is also because he is a master of what pundits used to call ‘the dark arts’ – the modern-day translation being the art of fouling someone sneakily so the referee doesn’t see it, but then three VAR experts in Stockley Park do. It’s not helping him get onto the pitch.
The value in betting in the post-VAR Premier League (and some fans will still be desperately hoping that this season is a temporary foray into the area) is clearly in VAR changing a referees decision on the pitch. It is happening in half of the Premier League fixtures most weeks. The odds are routinely between 7/4 and 9/4, when the true odds to make up even the kindest book would be 10/11.
Will referees get VAR right more by the end of the season? Evidence in recent weeks suggests more meddling, more incorrect decisions being turned over due to the most minute of measurements. If Roberto Firmino’s armpit can put him offside and we’re all still watching VAR, anything can happen.
Just make sure you profit from the market while it’s still there.