Draws used to be a more valuable result for a football team than they are now. Up until 1981, teams in the English league got just two points for a win but still one point for a draw. The aim behind increasing the points for a win to three was to encourage more attacking football, making it more worthwhile for teams to go for a win rather than settle for a draw. But, off the pitch, draws are still a very valuable result for the bookmakers and a lack of drawn matches can hurt their profits.
The 2013/2014 English Premier League season has started slowly for bookmakers in terms of draws. At the time of writing, 70 games have been played and 14 have ended in draws (20%) and operators have been reporting poor financial results:
Ladbrokes interim management statement: “Footfall has recovered with a significant improvement in OTC [over the counter] amounts staked, though results have driven lower than expected trading margins across the business.”
Ralph Topping, CEO William Hill: “During this [third] quarter, results were not as favourable as in the comparable period, with outcomes – particularly in football – going the punters’ way. Consequently, gross win margins are below the prior year in both major channels, and below normalised expectations in sportsbook. It is of course important in our business to look through the impact of short-term results on trading.”
William Hill reported its retail over-the-counter gross win margin was down 0.8 percentage points and online sportsbook gross win margin was down 1.5 percentage points versus Q3 2012.
GBGC Football Cumulative Draws
The draw tends to be the most profitable result for bookmakers because gamblers usually want back one team or another. No football fan ‘supports’ the draw.
GBGC Football EPL Draws Table
GBGC has analysed the historic data of results in the EPL to compile a forecast for the number of drawn games this season, and by implication, the possible financial performance of the leading betting firms.
GBGC Football Draws Forecast
GBGC forecasts there will be 92 draws in the 2013/2014 season. This equates to a draw percentage of 24.2%, the joint lowest figure over the last six seasons. It is significantly lower than the 28.4% seen in the 2012/2013 season – over four percentage points – suggesting it could be a tough one for the bookmakers.
But on the evidence of the early season results, 2013/2014 could be a ‘transitional’ year, with a shake-up in the traditional Big 4. Manchester United have already lost three times and Manchester City twice before the end of October.
If this pattern of shock defeats for the big teams continues it will help mitigate the lower number of draws GBGC is forecasting for the 2013/2014 season, thus helping restore the bookmakers’ gross win margin.