Untapped Potential: Betting in the Lower Leagues

Best Strategies for Betting

There is no denying that the English Premier League is one of the most watched and following sporting leagues in the world. The same could be said of other top leagues in Europe, such as La Liga in Spain and the Bundesliga in Germany. This is where the best footballers in the world meet on a weekly basis to entertain, wow and amaze millions of viewers across the globe.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the most popular football betting markets are to be found in the highest echelons of European football. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

It may not be pretty, but lower league football can provide plenty of excitement. Whether you happen to be a die-hard support of a local team in the lower tiers or if you simply can’t stand the out-of-touch billionaire owners and prima-donna players of the Premier League, there is a wealth of football to bet on if you know where to look. And more often than not, it pays to know your way around the lower league system.

Be an Expert

The simple fact of the matter is that everyone knows more or less everything about the bigger football leagues in the world. The Barclays Premier League in England is becoming more and more like a brand than simply a sporting competition and, as such, it is saturating the media we consume. If a player gets injured, you can find out instantly on twitter. If a manager has a row with a star-striker, it’s all over the back pages. If a team’s captain goes on an all night bender before a big match, the scandal will a top story on the 9 o’clock news.

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Bookmakers and punters alike know a lot about Premier League football, meaning that there is often little room for error when it comes down to finding good betting value. And finding good betting value is what it’s all about at the end of the day. On the flip side, lower leagues from the Championship through to the Conference and beyond into non-league get no way near as much air time and, even though bookies still have traders who specialise in these competitions, it is easier for  punters sniff out a good value bet.

Do Your Homework

The key to betting in the lower leagues of football is to know when you know more than the bookie. The best way to do this is to specialise in one league in particular, remembering that the further down the pecking order, the more room for error there is and the more likely a bookmaker will offer some good odds that are erroneously in your favour. By the same token, the more obscure the league, the more difficult it is for punters to really get to grips with the different factors in play.

Whatever league you happen to specialise in, it is vital that you follow these pointers:

  • Rely on trustworthy sources: the deeper you go into lower league football, the harder it is to find reliable news sources about the teams and fixtures involved. It’s advisable to steer away from local newspapers since they tend to give biased outlooks when it comes to local teams but punters will find some good resources such as thenonleaguefootballpaper.com. Also, following teams on twitter from your specialist division is a good way to find out about injuries.
  • Crunch the numbers: You can easily find statistics from most tiers of the English Football League. Applying a bit of mathematics to your betting strategy is a great way to instill some logical discipline to your thinking and help you find where the betting value lies.

Important Factors

Trusted news sources and cold hard statistics are very important when it comes to lower league football betting. But then, again, they are also vital tactics for bettors who stick to the top divisions of the beautiful game. Here are some circumstantial and environmental factors that are particularly prominent for football matches outside the top flight.

  1. There’s no place like home: home advantage plays a big part in Premier League football betting and you can see this reflected in the odds. However, home advantage isn’t as big a factor as you go down into the lower divisions. There are a number of reasons for this, with smaller crowd sizes and falling apart stands making a less intimidating atmosphere for away players. It’s also worth considering that part-time players in the non-league system might go straight from work to a mid-week night match at home while their opponents may have spent the day resting on a coach.
  2. Pitch conditions: it’s no secret that the pitch condition deteriorates as you sink down the leagues. This along with a general dip in tactical ability and skill makes for more long ball football. Let’s imagine Wrexham AFC are playing a home game shortly after the rugby league team, North Wales Crusaders, have torn up the pitch. Wrexham’s centre-half is a big lad with no pace and their opponents have a zippy young striker who can run in behind. Who can probably guess who our bets are on.
  3. Lack of squad depth: bar a few ambitious teams in the Championship, no team outside the Premier League has anyway near the kind of financial clout as the big teams. As such, they can’t build a first-team squad, bench and reserves of top-class footballers. This means that an injury to a key player has a much bigger effect since the team might have to bring in a young player from the reserves or a loan player from elsewhere. Keeping an eye on injuries is a must when betting in the lower leagues.
  4. Always room for an upset: with the above factors and a busy fixture schedule, the better teams in lower leagues are much less consistent than in the top tiers. To put it into numbers, we’ve worked out that over the past five years, the Premier League champions have had a better win rate and loss rate over the season than the winners of the lower leagues:

 

League Winners win rate Winners loss rate
Premier League 69.48% 11.56%
Championship 58.69% 16.97%
League One 60.43% 14.87%
League Two 57.39% 17.82%
Conference Premier 64.78% 15.66%


Go Abroad

If the not-so-glamorous prospect of following teams in the English lower leagues doesn’t tickle your fancy, then you could always specialise in a foreign league. It is arguable that England has the most competitive leagues in the world, even going down into the bottom tiers of the hierarchy. A league like the Danish Superliga, on the other hand, still offers some decent football but the games are not so hotly covered by the media. On the flip side, following obscure leagues abroad might make it more difficult to find information due to the language barrier.

What’s the Catch?

There appear to be many upsides to betting on obscure football leagues, whether they are in the UK or overseas. However, there are some things to be wary of besides from the portly pie-eating reserve goalkeepers!

  • Match fixing: unfortunately, match-fixing is a problem in professional and semi-professional football. There is no excuse for it, but player’s do take hefty financial bribes to deliberately enact situations in the game to benefit bettors, as we saw in the 2013 scandal involving active and ex-players such as Delroy Facey, DJ Campbell, Sam Sodje and Cristian Montaño. All of these players played at a fairly high level in the EFL.

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