Everyone loves a trier, especially when it comes to putting down your readies. There’s nothing more galling for punters than to realise that your selection was ‘not off’ and that you’ve not even had a fair run for your money.
Blanket television coverage and the greater transparency of the betting exchanges have raised awareness of the ‘non-trier’ issue in horse racing, but football punters need to be on their guard too. It’s clear that all is not well in the world of football, judging by the recent match-fixing scandal in Germany involving referee Robert Hoyzer, ongoing investigations into some Italian results and irregular betting patterns on obscure European and international matches.
Thankfully, the consistency of results in the bigger leagues (and especially in England) indicates that there is no reason for lack of punter confidence. The main problem – as in horse racing – lies around the margins, in those matches (or races) not subject to the full glare of the media spotlight and where skulduggery is less likely to arouse suspicion.
All very trying
However, my research suggests the ‘non-trier’ issue does rear its ugly head towards the end of the season, even in the major leagues. Most leagues are competitive enough to ensure they go right to the wire in the battles for championships, places in Europe and safety from relegation.
But, inevitably, some teams have nothing left to play for in the final weeks of the season, which is where problems can arise.
The last few weekends of a league season feature three types of match:
1. Matches between two teams with nothing to play for.
2. Matches between two teams with something to play for.
3. Matches between one team with something to play for and one team with nothing to play for.
Out of focus
The commitment of either team cannot be taken for granted in the first category, so the most sensible betting strategy towards the end of the season is to focus on categories two and three.
Matches in the second category should be assessed using your usual techniques. (Anybody who doesn’t know needs to read our football betting articles on inside-edge-mag.co.uk – Ed), but the best betting opportunities often lie in category three, where there’s always the potential for a ‘non-trier’.
This isn’t to suggest that anything underhand takes place in these games, merely that a slight drop in focus by one team can make all the difference in a competitive league such as the English Premiership.
There may be many reasons for this drop in focus – including the widely held view that some players are ‘on their holidays’ before the end of the season. It’s equally likely that, given the demands of modern football, a player who has been carrying an injury will be rested once his team has nothing left to play for, or that there may be some easing off in training sessions. Whatever the reasons, our results at the bottom of this article show a team with something to play for is more likely to win a match against a team with nothing to play for.
Across the top three English divisions and the major European leagues that we analysed (Spanish Liga, German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1), these matches usually produce a win rate of 50-60% for the team with something to play for, and a win rate of 20-30% for the team with nothing Liga ciputra to play for. The stats vary a bit from year to year and league to league, but overall are pretty consistent.
It’s a bone of some contention that such figures offer conclusive proof of the non-trier effect, but there’s one crucial piece of supporting evidence that swings the issue for me. If there was no link between the results and one team’s urgent need for points in such matches, we’d expect a higher win rate among higher-placed teams than those struggling near the bottom, since that’s what has been happening during the rest of the season. In fact, the win rate of teams battling to avoid relegation is abnormally high in such matches at the end of the season – virtually on a par with the win rate achieved by teams at the top of the table who are chasing titles, places in Europe or play-off slots.
Fight for survival
For example, the last five seasons of the English Premiership have produced a win rate of 55% for teams with something to play for. That figure does not vary, no matter whether the team is in the top six or the bottom six.
It’s a similar story in other leagues, though the win rate of relegation-threatened teams in such matches does tend to be slightly lower overall than that achieved by teams near the top of the table.
So, do these stats alone offer a good betting opportunity? The simple answer is no, but there are some refining touches that can put these figures to good advantage.
Let’s look at the overall picture first. A 55% win rate would give a tidy profit margin if the average odds available were evens, but that’s unlikely to be the case in matches where one team has something to play for and the other team doesn’t.
Taking the games that fell into this category last season in our featured leagues, a level-stakes bet on all the teams with something to play for would have brought a small loss. This was due, in part, to last season’s lower-than-average win rate by these teams, but a more significant factor is the reduced odds that punters are asked to accept on such teams.