Business World

How biases affect betting in the world’s most betted-on sport, football

Football, or soccer, as you wish to call it, is the most popular sport in the world by a landlside. Its viewership numbers dominate those of any other sport. For comparison’s sake, the NFL Super Bowl, which is the most-watched sporting event in the United States, reached a total viewership of just under 100 million in 2021. On the other hand, football’s most-viewed sporting event, the 2018 FIFA World Cup final, had 1.2 billion viewers. The difference is indeed staggering. Consequentially, football also happens to be the world’s most betted-on sport, with the football betting industry amassing a total of over $100 billion in 2019.

Football betting: why?

People bet on football for the same reason people bet in general: to make profits. It is the easiest, least effort-requiring moneymaking method that exists. All one must do to be profitable in the betting industry is to be right about an outcome they do not play a role in determining. They simlply wait and watch, and if they are right, they win. It sounds too good to be true, because in some ways, it is. If it were so easy to win, betting brokers would be out of business in very short time. That is why betting only occurs on situations with uncertain outcomes, and the less certain an outcome is, the higher the stakes are. One can thus be much more profitable, but also is much less likely to be profitable.

So then, why football? Because it is the most unpredictable sport in the world. Football is the ‘underdog’s sport’, where events with a 5000/1 probability of taking place did end up occuring, such as Leicester City winning the English Premier League in 2016. Football has brought the world some of its least likely events in human history. This makes it the most attractive sport for betters in the world, as with a genuine possibility of such low odds coming to life, unimaginable profits are to be made.

The role biases play

Much thought goes into the actions taken by a football better. Some the better is consciously aware of, while others are subconcious, and from those biases emerge. Firstly, desirability and confirmation bias are the most common, since the majority of football betters are people who watch the sport regularly. This makes it so that they develop their own preferences and opinions since they are fans of the sport. A better who supports a certain team wants that team to win so, unless they are unusually objective, or the team is coming up against clearly insurmountable odds, then a fan of a certain team is very likely to bet in their favor. Moreover, a better does not have to necessarily like a team, but they may consider the team to be stronger than others based on what they have previously seen, which will also influence the bets that are placed.

Secondly, loss aversion also heavily impacts how bets are placed. Betters evidently would rather win than lose, but risk averse betters often find that their strategies are inefficient. The following example using a team many consider to be the best in England, Manchester City, will be used to demonstrate this aspect. Since Manchester City is the best team they are most likely to win and a risk averse better is likely to bet in their favor more often than not. The total expected returns from betting $1 and being right on 10 randomly selected upcoming matches for Manchester City are equal to $4.7. However, if one were to go for the unsafe option, betting against Manchester City in all 10 of those exact same matches, the total returns would be equal to $106.9. The unsafe option is around 23 times more profitable than the safe one, so while loss aversion may prevent losses to a certain extent, it prevents profits to an even larger extent.

Additionally, the bandwagon effect is also everpresent in football betting, and it is so more than in any other betting industry. That is because of the nature of football betting, previously mentioned to be the highest-grossing of betting industries. Widepsread media makes it nearly impossible for football betters to escape the opinions of others regarding bets, predictions, performances, and outcomes. This leads to many being inclined to bet for the teams spoken about in a positive manner, since they appear more likely to emerge victorious in their games, and to fewer betters being inclined to bet for the weaker teams.

Finally, the anchoring effect and availability bias play their role in dictating a better’s decision-making. The anchoring effect occurs through the reading of betting odds. A better who reads that previously mentioned team Manchester City, for example, have a 1/10 chance of winning their next game, will understand that they are the stronger side since they are more expected to win than their opponents. This hinders a better’s ability to bet objectively. Availability bias is instead present when taking a look at a certain team’s form, which means how they have performed in recent games. A team basking in good form is likely to beat a team suffering from poor form, which also definitely adds to the subjectivity of bets.


It is evident that biases of different nature affect a better’s decision-making process and render their bets much more subjective than objective. If one wants to avoid such biases, or try to reduce their negative impact as much possible because absolute objectivity is impossible, then the following advice could prove helpful:

  • Do not bet on games in which teams you like are playing;

  • Do not be too risk averse or too risk loving, have some balance;

  • Bet small amounts, football is the most unpredictable sport ever;

  • As difficult as it is, do not listen to others, bet based on yourself;

  • Read betting odds but do not rely solely on them.


Bakshi, Sahil. “How many people watched Super Bowl 2021? How it compares with IPL, FIFA World Cup and other events”, 10 February 2021,

Last Word Staff. “What Are the Most Popular Sports by Betting Volume?”, 15 June 2020,

“The Psychology of Football Betting”,

“How much money is being bet on sports every year?”, 3 April 2019,

“5000/1 – Just what does that mean?”,

“Premier League odds”, accessed on 5 December 2021,

By Kareem Al Hajj Fakieh

Undergraduate student at Bocconi University

One reply on “How biases affect betting in the world’s most betted-on sport, football”

Amazing work loved it!! Very refreshing to see the approach you took on conveying the information in such an organized matter. Keep it up!!


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