Rugby And The World Of Sports Betting

It all started in 1823, supposedly, with a boy called William Webb Ellis picking up the ball and running with it during a game of football.

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Fast forward to today and both rugby union and rugby league are highly popular sports in Ireland, the UK and other parts of the world. As if it wasn’t exciting enough, some sports fans will also place a wee wager on games, which, if their team comes up trumps, nets a little cash for them and makes the victory even sweeter.

Big-name rugby tournaments

The sport spoils fans with a number of tournaments. In Ireland, teams from different provinces compete against each other, compete in the European Rugby Union Champions Cup and also — against Welsh, Scottish, Italian and South African teams — in the Pro 14. Then there’s the national squad, which competes in the Six Nations — and has won the championship four times — and, if the team qualifies, the Rugby World Cup.

Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, England has the Premiership Rugby club competition, the Premier 15s (women’s) and the national team competes in the Six Nations and, if it qualifies, the Rugby World Cup. Scotland and Wales also play in these international tournaments, likewise subject to qualification in the case of the World Cup. There’s also the rugby sevens.

Betting on sports

Of course, sports and betting have a long history together, especially in the UK, which has always been fond of betting on sports such as horse racing and football. The bottom line is it’s entertaining and some people bet on events, even if they’re not likely to win! They simply enjoy it.

There’s a sheer convenience of going online to place a bet instead of visiting a land-based bookie. Operators have recognised this and tapped into it, by creating mobile apps so people can place bets on the go, making it more convenient for the punter. There is also the ability for online providers to offer a wide range of sign-up deals something that is limited in a bookies shop.

So, punters like to try their luck on a popular sporting event such as a football match or a horse race but what about rugby? The market is relatively small and is still a relatively new concept, but it still has its share of bettors. Studying the form of teams, knowing who’s playing well, who isn’t and understanding each player’s strengths and weaknesses can make the game attractive to bettors. Just like there are different ways to score points in rugby to win the game, there are different ways to win when you bet, which adds that variety and intrigue.

Governing bodies in the sport also work hard to combat any potential for match-fixing, which can also make it attractive to anyone who wants to bet and stay on the right side of the law while they do it. At the same time, it deters people looking to manipulate the result for their own financial gain and the bodies deal harshly with players who take part in this.

Who’s doing all the betting?

Stats on who’s putting the money on games are hard to come by, but rugby has exploded in popularity, partly because of the inclusion of rugby sevens in the Rio Olympics in 2016. World Rugby published a study in which it stated that rugby union had 793 million fans across the world. Thirty-six per cent of sports fans across the globe are women or girls. A lot of the interest has come from the emerging markets.

Past research by YouGov has found Wales has the largest European fan base. Interestingly, the same study found that the sport attracts most of its followers from the high-income earnings bracket. In 12 of the 14 countries in which the research was conducted, most of the followers were in this bracket.

The tradition of betting on horse racing

There’s one sport that’s long had a tradition of betting alongside it, though: horse racing. The sport remains as popular as ever, with events such as the (Irish) Grand National, the Cheltenham Festival and the Epsom Derby all staples on the racing calendar. It’s still the sport of a more mature audience and, according to research, is the most bet-on sport between 18- and 54-year olds.

In fact, it’s a sport born almost out of betting. Originally, it began in medieval England as a way to demonstrate a horse’s speed to buyers. Knights were the first competitive jockeys, so to speak, to ride for a purse, the first one documented being £40. Later, the first documented horse race in France came out of a wager between two noblemen. This was during the reign of Louis XIV, a time in which there was lots of racing based on gambling in the country.

Traditionally, people place bets on football matches and horse races, but rugby has a growing legions of fans and betting on the sport may become more popular as time goes on. Rugby betting is still a small market, but the Rio 2016 Olympics introduced it to new audiences, so more people might start laying money down on it. Whatever happens, no fan will ever regret the day William Webb Ellis picked up that ball and started running with it (if that’s what took place).