Why Do UK Punters Love Football So Much?

By in UK on
8 Minute Read

Football is a huge sport all over the world, but nowhere is it bigger than in the home of the English Premier League.

I’ve been watching football since I was old enough to understand what it was, and I’ve seen the sport go through lots of changes. One of the most recent things I’ve noticed is the sheer number of footy fans glued to their smartphones as games unfold. It probably comes as no surprise that a heck of a lot of them log into Bet365 and other UK bookmakers and place bets.

So, what is it about football that UK punters love so much? Why is this sport so much bigger than many of the others? Why is the UK, and particularly the UK betting subculture, obsessed with football? I’ll get into some of the reasons here.

Some UK Football Statistics

Assuming you’re reading this from the UK, then you already know how big football is. Almost everyone supports a team to some degree or has a family member who does, yet few realize just how massive the sport is in financial terms. Let’s take a look at some numbers according to the latest stats.

  • The brand value of the Premier League has surpassed £7.5 billion.
  • The total value of kit sponsorships in the Premier League reached £349.1 million.
  • No fewer than 38,484 people attend the average EPL football match.
  • The average weekly wage of a Premier League football player is £50,000.
  • The top-earning club in 2019, Liverpool FC, made a staggering £149 million. Manchester City made slightly less at £147.5 million.

I think the numbers above make a compelling case that football is a huge deal in the UK. With more and more “big money” entering the game and buying up clubs, you can expect the numbers above to increase in the years to come.

Betting in the UK

While there are no official stats on football betting in the UK, there are plenty of stats on betting in general. Since football and horse racing get the lion’s share of sports betting activity, we can make a ballpark estimate of how big football betting is in the UK.

  • There are 8,406 betting shops across the UK. Organizations like William Hill are shutting down lots of shops, so that number will probably drop in the coming years.
  • Between 2010 and 2018, Brits bet £3.25 billion on sports. Those revenue stats are from licensed and regulated bookmakers. Who knows how much cash friends exchange over friendly punts.
  • 32% of UK punters reported that they gamble on a weekly basis.

These are some revealing figures, and if we even assume that betting on football accounts for a conservative ⅓ of the action, that means the revenue over the recorded eight-year period is well over £1 billion.

As noted above, it’s likely much more than that when you consider casual bets and the fact that football betting accounts for much more than one-third of the action.

Wow! £1 billion quid fired over bookie’s counters and into their online accounts on football alone. Clearly, there’s something about football in particular that UK punters find irresistible. What is it? Or are there a number of factors at play?

A Short History of UK Football

One of the key parts to the puzzle of why football and football betting are so popular in the UK lies in its history. For example, did you know that the first football clubs formed in England?

  • According to FIFA, football as we know it today began in 1863 in England. This year saw the formation of the Football Association (FA). It was played before that, but this was the first governing body to come up with a unified set of rules and push the sport forward.
  • However, the founding of the FA was not the beginning of football in England. The oldest teams date back to 1789.
  • Teams played in the FA Cup for the first time in the 1871-72 season. It was the world’s first organized football competition.
  • The first official international football match took place between two UK nations, England and Scotland. England travelled to Glasgow and the game finished 0-0.
  • After football gained professional status in 1885, the first league came into existence in 1888. It was called the Football League.

And the rest, as they say, is history! Today, UK football is played in mega stadiums which are packed to capacity, watched by millions of fans from around the world, and the top football players on earth play in the Premier League.

It has come a long way, to say the least, and is an ingrained part of UK culture. People take immense pride in the clubs they support, and footballers are the heroes of many UK children growing up. I remember pretending I was Robbie Fowler back in the day, and there are countless UK children doing the same right now.

That’s reason number one for the popularity of football betting in the UK, love and passion for the sport. Watching your club is exciting enough, but having a £5 or £10 bet riding on the outcome supercharges the experience and makes you feel you’re down in the trenches with the lads as they battle it out against rival teams.

The Promotion of Betting in UK Football

Love and passion aren’t the only reasons why UK punters bet so much on football. The betting industry also pushes the idea of having a punt heavily. Before the whistle-to-whistle gambling ads ban, there were so many betting ads on TV during matches that the two concepts were almost associated completely. The fact that there had to be a ban in the first place speaks volumes. There are still plenty of ads before and after matches.

This is a touchy subject, and lots of football fans don’t like the idea that a sport watched by children and young adults is so intertwined with gambling. But it is.

Here are some interesting facts about the presence of the betting industry in UK football.

  • In the 2019/20 season, almost 60% of all clubs in England’s top two divisions were sponsored by betting firms and casinos. I don’t have official stats on other leagues, but I know that 32Red previously sponsored Glasgow Rangers, and Dafabet is one of Celtic’s sponsors. The reach of betting companies extends into Scottish, Northern Irish, and Welsh leagues.
  • In 2016, at the peak of gambling advertising on TV, betting firms spent a whopping £150 million per year on TV ads. This doesn’t even take into account how much they spent and still spend on online advertising.
  • A recent report by GVC Holdings, one of the biggest UK betting firms, revealed that it spends £45 million per year on UK sports advertising. A substantial chunk of that goes into football, as you would expect.

Clearly, betting on football in the UK is not simply something which has grown organically. Yes, punters drive demand, but they’re certainly helped along by bookmakers who are keen to fan the flames and drum up more business.

Before moving on from this point, I’d like to say one last thing about it. There are some sports in the UK which would literally die without the revenue generated by betting. Horse racing is one of them, and efforts to curb spending on gambling ads have given horse racing a pass as a result.

However, most fans agree that we could do with a little less gambling advertising in football. There’s nothing wrong with a flutter here and there, but if you feel it’s become a problem for you or someone you know, please visit BeGambleAware for some advice.

So, aside from love and passion for the sport and vast piles of money being poured into football by the UK gambling industry, are there any other reasons why betting on football is so popular here?

Betting on Football Is an Entertainment Experience

According to research by the UK Gambling Commission, 48% of Brits surveyed said they had gambled in the past four weeks. There’s something in the culture that makes gambling both acceptable and desirable. It’s simply a part of the culture, and there are plenty of excellent betting products ready to serve eager UK punters, particularly when it comes to football.

In order to demonstrate the point I want to make here, let’s take a look at some of the football betting options available on Bet365’s app. Since it’s one of the leading UK bookmakers, it makes sense to check it out.

I navigated over to the live/in-play football betting section, and here’s what I found.


And consider that the above is only a small sample of what’s on offer. I couldn’t fit it all on the screen! Here’s what you can bet on at Bet365:

  • Full-Time Result
  • Double Chance
  • Match Goal
  • First Goal
  • Subsequent Goals (2nd goal etc.)
  • Match Corners
  • 2-Way Corners
  • Asian Handicap
  • Final Score
  • Asian Corners
  • Corner Handicap
  • Number of Cards
  • Draw No Bet
  • Last Team to Score
  • Goals Odd/Even
  • BTTS
  • Team Clean Sheet
  • Exact Goals by Team
  • Goalscorers
  • Player to be Booked
  • Player to be Sent Off
  • Goals in Next 10 Minutes
  • Time of Goals (1st, 2nd etc.)

And that’s before you get into the bet builder, ACCAs, and all the other bets which Bet365 offers. Clearly, there’s no shortage of betting opportunities in any UK football match.

You can bet on these outcomes in every single game. You can also cash out at most UK bookmakers, taking wins or losses early to maximize profits and minimize losses. Top bookmakers also offer extra features like match commentary, live streaming of games, expert blog posts, vast statistics centers to help make betting decisions, and more.

Football Betting in the UK Is a Full Experience

It’s gone way past just having a punt on the outcome. It’s now an entertainment experience, and many fans feel it’s worth it to pay £10 or £20 for an afternoon’s entertainment, even if they don’t win money.

The sheer number of betting markets and all of the extra features ensure that UK punters have a good time, even if they don’t end the day with a profit.

UK Football Betting Summary

As you can probably see, betting on football in the UK is a huge business, and it’s something which lots of football fans genuinely have a passion for. It links you to your team and helps you get that much closer to the action, an extra shot of adrenaline to make the game more enjoyable.

And there’s nothing wrong with any of that as long as it doesn’t get out of control. Thankfully, most UK punters know where to draw the line. For those that don’t, thanks to the excellent regulation of the industry by the UKGC, help is available.

Now you know why football betting is such a big deal in the UK. The only question left to answer is who will you back to win this week?

Oliver Hughes

Based out of London, I began freelance writing for the UK section of GamblingSites.org in October of 2019. Having worked in the gambling industry for over 10 years, I now have the pleasure of adding this site to my list of accomplishments as a casino writer. ...

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