Last Saturday, on the train from East Kilbride to Glasgow, I sat behind a group of teenage boys and watched, fascinated, as they each poured over their individual betting slips. In murmured voices, I overheard them discussing the good form of Montrose, how Port Vale at home against Morcambe was a ‘guaranteed banker’ and to avoid betting on Fulham away at all costs. I wondered to myself if these lads put as much study and effort into their high school exams, such was the concentration on their faces as they set about choosing which teams would grace their weekend football coupon.
For those who don’t know, a football coupon (or accumulator) is a single bet where the outcomes of two or more games are predicted. If, say, eight matches are selected, the full-time results in each of the eight games are chosen (home win, draw or away win). To win an accumulator bet, all of the selections need to be successful; if just one of the eight predictions is incorrect, the bet is void. The betting odds for football coupons are related to the number of selections made and the individual odds of each selection. Therefore, the potential payout on an accumulator bet can be several thousand times the stake. With that in mind, it is easy to see their appeal: small bets can win big.
There are different strategies for placing a football accumulator.
Some punters bet with the aim of making a modest sum of money, by choosing only a few teams (generally three or four), and placing a high stake, say £5-£20. With there being fewer teams involved in the bet, the risk is obviously reduced, although the accumulated odds for a three-team football coupon generally don’t exceed 20/1.
On the other hand, football fans (such as myself) see football coupons in the same way as lottery tickets.
For instance, I like to place several 10p accumulator bets which involve anything from eight up to eighteen matches (if one of my eighteen-game coupons ever come in, I’ll continue to write for Good Feet for a Big Man from time to time from my luxury pad in Hawaii).
Like the long-suffering fans of the Scottish national team, those who place such ridiculously unlikely football accumulators have many tales of woe and near misses. In 2004, a friend of mine, in his second year at university, placed a 50p bet on a twelve game accumulator. Eleven of the matches took place on a Tuesday night, while the other match was to be played the following day. Amazingly, the games played on Tuesday – all eleven of them – came in. Suddenly, the £2000 payout was a genuine possibility, especially as the final prediction that had yet to be settled was a home win for Manchester United against Porto. For anyone who remembers that fateful night, a last-minute Porto goal left my friend as dumbstruck as the Manchester United players. Essentially, all he had lost was his 50p stake, but it felt like so much more than that.
For me, the real joy of football coupons is that they lead to football fans cheering on teams they’ve barely even heard of. I’ve been in the pub at 4:45pm on a Saturday where cries such as “Yes! Lincoln City goal!” or “Get in there! Aldershot have equalised!” are commonplace.
The way I see it, football accumulators do little more than add extra interest to the humdrum of the football schedule. Plus, there’s always the chance that one time, a last minute goal for Arbroath could win you a fortune!