Unpredictability might be a good thing if you don’t mind betting on sides with long odds, but if you’re the sort of person that likes betting on the favourites then it’s become quite hard to do so. Never has that been truer than when it comes to looking at the relegation battle. Relegation betting is a big market, especially in terms of ante-post bets, with long-odds usually available if you’re willing to think outside the box a little bit and not be dependent on predictability.
You would have received very short odds indeed if you’d placed a bet on Leicester City to be relegated in the winter of 2014, with the Foxes spending most of the season up until that point battling away in the relegation places. In the end you’d have lost your bet, too. Not only did the Midlanders stay up, they went on to win the title the following season in the least predictable event in Premier League history. In other words, modern football is an ever-changeable feast, with relegation betting being one of the hardest to predict. I’ll explain more here.
What Is Relegation Betting?
First things first, then, let’s have a look at what Relegation betting actually is. It might seem quite self-explanatory and, to an extent, it is. Yet it’s not uncommon for people to bet on sports that they don’t really understand and I like to make sure that all of my pieces start by ensuring that we’re all on the same page. After all, if you’re not particularly au fait with the world of top-class football then you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about and the piece will therefore be virtually useless for you.
Relegation betting is, as the name suggests, when you place a bet on the team or teams that you think are going to get relegated. In essence, it’s as simple as that. It can get a little bit more complicated when you start to think about when it is that you place your bet, but even then you’re still betting on the same thing. You can either bet ante-post, which is before the season even gets underway, or you can bet closer to the final moments of a league campaign when the picture has become a little clearer. Regardless, you’ll only be paid out if the club that you’ve bet on ends up being relegated from the division that you’re betting on.
Things to Think About
When it comes to Relegation betting, there are a number of things that you’ll be wanting to take into account before you place you wager. I’ll look at them each more closely here:
One of the first things you’ll want to have a look at is whether or not there have been any ownership changes in recent times. A good example of things on that front would be Aston Villa, who were owned, either in part of in the majority, by Doug Ellis from 1968 until 2006. They were in Division Two when he took over and bobbed up and down between the divisions, but gradually he saw them rise through the ranks to reach Division One, which eventually became the Premier League. They remained in the Premier League under his ownership, but in 2006 he sold the club to an American billionaire named Randy Lerner.
Things didn’t fall apart immediately for Lerner, with the club moving from 16th the year he took over to 11th, before finishing 6th for three years in a row. However, the club’s fortunes began to deteriorate not longer after that and the finished 9th, 16th, 15th, 15th and 17th before eventually ending up at the foot of the Premier League table and being relegated. Had Ellis sold to someone with knowledge of the English top-flight then things might have been different for the Villans, but the sale to an American who didn’t have any previous experience of English football meant that he eventually got bored and wanted to sell the club, resulting in performances on the pitch suffering as a consequence. Villa’s situation isn’t unique, but it’s a good example of the reason why I’m telling you to keep your eye on ownership changes.
Much as a change of ownership can signal a period of instability for a club, so too can a different manager coming in suggest that a club could be about to have a difficult season. In 2016, for example. Steve Bruce resigned as Hull City manager. Mike Phelan, the club’s assistant manager at the time, was given the job on a temporary basis and impressed, earning the job permanently in October of that year. By January, however, the club was looking to be in a relegation battle and so Phelan left, being replaced by Marco Silva. The Portuguese coach did a good job but couldn’t keep the Tigers up, resulting in them being relegated at the end of the 2016-2017 season. It might not have been obvious that that was going to happen at the start of the season, given Phelan’s good performance in August, but an assistant being made manager often works out poorly for the team appointing them.
Selling of Players
Perhaps the most obvious thing to point to in terms of things to think about when you’re placing a bet on which team is likely to get relegated is whether or not there has been much of a turnover in the playing staff. New owners and new managers coming in can both have an affect on a club’s ability to perform, but ultimately the lads that take to the pitch are the ones that decide the outcome of any given match and, over the course of the season, the ability of a club to stay in the division.
When a player plays well for a side, regardless of where they are in the league, other teams will be interested. If the club sells a striker that scored lots of goals for them in the previous campaign, for example, then it’s worth looking at whether or not they’ve been able to replace them. Similarly if they had a goalkeeper who made countless saves the year before and he’s gone, is the ‘keeper that they’ve replaced him with good enough? They’re the sorts of things can see a club that’s previously avoided relegation get dragged right into the mire.
The League that You’re Betting on
It’s easy to be entirely focussed on the Premier League, but not everyone wants to bet on the English top-flight and different leagues work in different ways. If you wanted to place a bet on the EFL League One, for example, then you’d need to bear in mind that four teams get relegated rather than three. Likewise in League Two only two sides drop down, making it even more difficult to select the sides that won’t be in the division the following year. If you look North of the border in Scotland, meanwhile, the entire structure of the league is different to what you might be used to from English football.
The season is split in two, with sides facing each other three times in the first half before the division is separated into a top six and a bottom six for the second half. I’m not going to explain it all here, but it’s a crazy way to do things and you’ll want to get your head around it before you look to place any bets on who will be going down and who will be staying up. The other thing you need to remember is that the team that finishes eleventh in the Scottish Premiership will play a two-leg tie against the winners of the Scottish Championship play-off matches, with the winner playing in the Premiership the following season and the loser being in the Championship. It’s not, therefore, a straightforward relegation.
One of the most underrated aspects of a league campaign is the manner in which the fixtures fall. Obviously they can be chopped and changed as the season goes on so as to accommodate television coverage, but generally speaking they’ll stay in much the same order as they come out of the fixture computer. It’s worth having a look how teams are doing at the halfway stage of a season and then having a look at the fixtures that the bottom few teams are due to play at the end of the campaign. Do any teams have a particularly hard run-in?
It might be worth having a flutter on them to go down if so, given that the business end of the season can be when things get really stressful for sides. You’ll see when I look at the ante-post versus mid-season odds later on that some teams have worse odds than teams lower than them in the table and that’s largely due to their remaining fixtures at that point in the calendar.
Why the Odds Don’t Matter
One thing you might be tempted to do is look at the favourites for relegation and have a punt on them, but the reality is that the bookies don’t always get things right on that front. In 2016-2017, for example, the club that the bookmakers thought was most likely to go down was Burnley. The odds on them dropping out of the Premier League were 10/11, but in the end they finished sixteen and were six points clear of Hull City in eighteenth.
Admittedly the bookmakers got the next to favourite teams to go down correct, with Hull having odds of 1/1 and Middlesbrough coming in at 11/8. Still, Sunderland were 4/1 to go down, with six other teams above them when it came to how the bookmakers saw things. The bookies couldn’t have been more wrong, with the Black Cats only managing to get six wins on the board and racking up twenty-four points, getting relegated as the worst team in the division.
Recently Promoted Teams – What the Stats Say
I’ve written quite a long piece elsewhere on the site about what happens to recently promoted teams, so I’m not going to go over that old ground again. It’s worth giving the information I found a quick mention here, however, given the subject matter that I’m talking about. It’s common for both punters and bookies to think that recently promoted teams are likely to struggle when they arrive in a new league and a number of bets are often placed on them to go straight back down. Yet the stats don’t actually back that argument up, especially when you begin to look further down the English league structure.
I liked at eleven league campaigns across the Premier League, the Championship, League One and League Two and discovered that the following percentage of teams get relegated the season after gaining promotion:
- Premier League: Around 42%
- Championship: Around 21%
- League One: Around 13.6%
- League Two: 0%
The most striking statistics there is obviously the 0% of clubs that have been relegated from League Two the season after they’re promoted. That’s not to say that no League Two clubs have been promoted and then ended up going back down again at the end of their first season in the division, just that over the eleven seasons that I looked at none of them did. Still, if something hasn’t happened in eleven attempts you’d be silly to bet that it would happen the next time, wouldn’t you?
Life’s much more difficult in the top-flight, but it’s still not a given that promoted teams will head straight back down. At least one team did end up enjoying only one season in the Premier League over the period I investigated, with the exception of 2011-2012 season when all three clubs managed to keep their top-flight status. Of the other ten seasons, one team went straight back down on six occasions and two teams did so on the other four. Even so, knowing that it’s likely that at least one of the promoted team will be relegated doesn’t help identify which one it will be. That’s where the above things to think about might come in handy.
Ante-Post v Mid-Season Betting
The last thing I’ll mention is the difference between ante-post betting on the Relegation market and waiting until it’s the middle of the season or later. I mentioned this briefly before, but it’s absolutely worth considering the difference in odds between getting your bet on before a ball is kicked and holding back until the league starts to take shape. Here’s a look at the odds on five teams getting relegated out of the Premier League in the 2017-2018 season before a ball was kicked, then again in April of that campaign:
|Team||Ante-Post Odds||Position on April 9th 2018||Points on April 9th 2018||Games Played on April 9th 2018||Odds on April 9th 2018|
|West Bromwich Albion||6/1||20th||21||33||1/500|
You can see, then, that there was much better value on the more established Premier League teams if you had a look at the ante-post market. Southampton were the side with the longest odds before the season got underway, sitting at 25/1. They were just Evens by the time they had just six games to play, however. Huddersfield, on the other hand, were a newly promoted side and were viewed as 8/11 favourites to face the drop.
They’d shifted to 11/8 by the time they had only five games remaining, meaning you’d have got marginally better value by waiting. As with virtually any sport, therefore, the better odds were definitely on the ante-post market, but it’s not always easy to guess which teams are the most likely to struggle that far out.