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The FA Cup – Any magic for the bookies?

The third round of the FA Cup gets underway at the weekend and whilst this means a shot at glory for those outside the Premier League, it means something different for the bookmakers. Does an FA Cup weekend mean more or less betting volume these days? How do you promote a weekend of games to a bettor who doesn’t know their Portsmouth from their Port Vale?

We asked some of the industry’s experts, Lewis Davey PR and Mischief Champion at Paddy Power, Tim Reynolds Head of PR and Planning at Sun Bets and Charlie McCann Head of PR and Communications at Betvictor, for their thoughts on the matter.

SBC: How expensive is an FA Cup weekend? 

Charlie McCann, BetVictor

Charlie: Expensive? We won’t know until the dust has settled on Tuesday morning but it is not as popular as a normal domestic Premier/Football League weekend and the magic of the FA Cup is largely a myth perpetrated by the host broadcasters. The competition can throw up the odd great story (e.g. Wigan in 2013) but you have to go back to Wimbledon, arguably, in 1988 for the last real “fairytale”. Punters don’t know the priority of the Clubs and what side teams are going to field these days and that is less attractive to the football bettor.

As to whether we suffer from the absence of a typical Prem weekend, yes turnover will be significantly down this weekend although the punters pockets are bulging with their Christmas winnings. I am staggered that BT Sport have decided to show the Cambridge v Leeds tie on Monday night rather than five-times winners and last year’s beaten semi-finalists Everton against the Premier League champions Leicester City!

Lewis: Under normal circumstances , if a few of the ‘big’ teams get knocked out we would be very happy but punters tend to like to dream of the Giant Killers, so a few big price winners can easily upset the book for the weekend. 

Lewis Davey, Paddy Power Betfair

Tim: FA Cup betting really kicks into action from the third round onwards when the big guns enter the competition, but the match odds are reflective of a team’s chance especially when a minnow takes on a team from a much higher league.  

Overall betting turnover and stakes do tend to drop a little from a standard weekend, but the interest is very much still there and bookmakers do love to see a giant killing with the majority of larger stakes and accumulative bets going on the one-sided affairs.

As the competition progresses and more high profile teams seem to take the competition more seriously, turnover on both the outright and individual matches does tend to increase resulting in either make or break weekends for the bookmakers!

SBC: What do you do to generate interest in betting on the FA Cup?

Charlie: The outright market is fascinating. We make hosts Chelsea our 5/1 favourites with their lack of European or League Cup involvement and the Blues are just 7/1 to do the domestic double ahead of their trip to White Hart Lane this evening which will, hopefully, breath new life into the PL outright market.

We will be as competitive on pricing on ever and have BetBoosts and specials such as ‘How many PL teams will be in the 4th Round’, Big 6 1/3 to lift the Trophy and any other side 9/4.

The return of Friday night live televised football has yet to really take off with the football bettor although we are optimistic this BBC televised tie between West Ham and Man City will be more popular. Of course, the caveat still applies that we and the football punter won’t really know how seriously Pep and Slaven will be taking the competition until an hour before kick-off.   

Lewis: Without wanting to sound too clichéd here, we don’t have to do much as ‘the Magic of the FA Cup’ and the fact so many games are on terrestrial tv means there’s always a decent level of interest from punters. 

Tim Reynolds, Sun Bets

Tim: You usually find that stakes are more spread about and lower in value so bookmakers will often offer a wider variety of specials and enhanced prices to attract punters to matches where it’s such a one-sided affair.

One issue that faces both punters and bookmakers is the attitude that some of the top teams currently approach the competition with. Team news plays a major part so you do tend to find that people don’t get involved early. To try and combat this, bookmakers will try and attract business through pricing strategies and targeted promotions.

However, you will find punters still backing a team because of who they are and their current form in the league, but this can prove costly as demonstrated in last season’s 3rd Round – Exeter holding Liverpool to a draw, Eastleigh drawing with Bolton and Oxford United beating Swansea.

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