By Jonathan Lewis | 23 FEB 2021
The Covid – 19 pandemic has been a terrible time in recent history. Everyone and everything seems to have been affected at some point or another. Between families unable to see each other or possibly losing a loved one, to not being able to travel to see the world or explore.
The last year has seen global trade affected, cities and countries locking down, the tourism sector getting absolutely hammered in some of the world’s most beautiful places. Yet, for some people, this has not bothered them too much. As long as they have some of their favorite activities taking place or interests going on, they can get through without too much hassle.
For some people, football and betting go hand in hand. It becomes a lot more exciting watching the game if you have money wagered on it. So how did the football side of things fare out over the last year? Did things really change that much? The football industry and betting industry hold so much interest from the people that pressure was being exerted at every change made by the UK government. Because of the feeling that football is the national sport, every decision was scrutinized. Let’s take a look at a few of the things that were affected.
Big crowds at football stadiums have not been seen in the UK in over a year. The last game before the lockdown was a Champions League game, played at Anfield on March 11 between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid, a team from Spain.
Partial lockdown was already being enforced in the capital city of Madrid. It’s estimated around 52,000 people were at this game, including at least 3,000 who had traveled from Spain. Between the mixture of local and traveling supporters, mingling together at the stadium, to and from the game and in the city center, this fixture was later blamed for a spread of covid cases in England and Spain.
It was regrettable this game took place, authorities deemed, putting a lot of people at risk and contributing to quite a few deaths sadly. Soon after this game, all football in England was suspended as the country entered a national lockdown on March 23rd, 2020. The original date for the return of football was April 3rd. In the end, due to uncertainty over the Pandemic, it didn’t restart until June 17th, thus leaving bettors and the general public without their fix of Premier League magic.
Due to the government’s fear of the spread of the virus, once lockdown began all non-essential businesses were ordered to be closed. This included traditional bookmaker shops on the high street, thus affecting betting directly as this is part of some of their major income streams.
Shops luckily enough to have an online platform were not affected as much as others, but still, the effect was felt. For the consumer, part of the enjoyment was gone, as there is always a buzz of excitement in the bookmakers.
People watching the matches or scores coming in on live on the tv, or chatting amongst each other sharing tips about games aiming to make their weekend betting on football a winning one! It’s a great feeling, pitting your wits against the bookies and coming out on top.
Clubs in the English Premier League (EPL), have seen big drops in income over the last year due to Covid-19. As mentioned earlier, the lack of fans allowed to watch the games meant a serious drop in matchday income as no tickets were being sold. This had a further knock-on effect on commercial revenue as club merchandise shops were also shut.
This, combined with regular sportswear shops being shut, meant sales of replica football shirts and other club wear plummeted. Money from tv rights was also affected as firstly the EPL was stopped during the lockdown and then resumed later without fans. Thus breaking the contacts regarding when and how the tv companies wanted the games to occur.
Before Covid-19, the lure of the EPL to players abroad was obvious, and probably still is. The chance to play with highly skilled players and highly rated coaches. In a league which is seen to be very competitive as opposed to their European counterparts. Also, the salaries on offer were often far superior to any challengers from the continent. Gossip in the newspapers, the internet, and sometimes even clubs themselves, helped spur the player’s next club market for bettors.
People could wager on for example where they felt Gareth Bale, Kylian Mbappe or even the great Lionel Messi were going to move to next. However, despite repeated big signings, and transfer window figures usually being broken most seasons, the last two transfer windows have seen very little activity due to the pandemic. Clubs are tightening their belts, with loan signings, free transfers or low-budget transfers being the order of the moment. Some EPL clubs and players even went so far as to agree to salary cuts for players and staff, wage deferments, donation of wages to health services or charitable causes.
This all led to some big players happy to sit where they are for the moment and see how it all unfolds. Hopefully, if it starts to get better, the public and bettors alike can feel safe in the knowledge that big-name players will return to the Premier League once more.
At one point, during the lockdown and postponement of EPL fixtures, serious consideration was given to rendering the season of 2019/2020 null and void. This was due to confusion, lack of information and understanding about the virus, and the feeling of pessimism about when and if at all the fixture list could be completed.
Unsurprisingly, one of the clubs, West Ham, lingering near the bottom of the table were in favor of this proposal. However, Liverpool, playing amazing football in their quest for their first EPL title, and quite a distance ahead at the top of the table were understandably not.
No doubt there was plenty of bettors from both sides wondering what would happen, as season-long bets on positions such as Champions, Top 4 spot, Relegation all suddenly hung in the balance. The Pandemic putting a halt to your big win would not be pleasing. Yet, surely some who stood to lose fortunes were praying for the season to be stopped!
The online betting companies themselves have gone from strength to strength. With traditional bookies closed and competition out of their way, business is booming. Add in the fact that lots of people were stuck at home and some to continue to be so, there has been a lot of free time for people to play around with.
Boredom and curiosity become a factor. Also, the chance to boost your earnings, or possibly even replace your earnings if you are out of work from the safety of your own home becomes intriguing for some people. Bookies like Bethard, offer some great sign-up bonuses if you are deciding to play for the first time. With a variety of markets available for every Premier League game, any keen football fan will have an interest in seeing if their knowledge can finally pay off. And although in some areas bookmakers are open with restrictions, large parts of the UK still have bookmakers closed.
Even still, the fear of the Pandemic weighs heavily on some people and they are more than happy to play from home, thus continuing huge growth in this sector during these unprecedented times. Possibly one of the few industries that can claim to have increased during Covid-19.
Jonathan Lewis is an MFF Staff Writer