Football is one of the most popular sports in the world, Europe included. It is associated with important monetary transactions and financial sponsoring.
Sports betting is associated with pathological gambling and is widely available on the Internet, one of the most important means for seeking general, medical, and gambling information[4, 5]. There, one can find messages such as “To win at sports betting, you have to prognosticate correctly. Don’t forget that a sports bet is not the lotto. Sport is not only a question of chance, far from it. To place your bet efficiently, you must learn about football as a sport and follow a minimum of its championships.”
Football competition is, unmistakably, a sport based on a high level of training and specific skills. This assertion may lead to the belief that football knowledge and expertise will allow better prediction of match scores. If unfounded, however, this belief should be considered a form of “illusion of control.” This term was defined by Langer as “an expectancy of a personal success probability inappropriately higher than the objective probability would warrant.” This type of distorted thinking was considered a major factor in gambling persistence and severity[7, 8], and led to the development of cognitive restructuring therapies for pathological gamblers.
As suggested by Cantinotti, Ladouceur, and Jacques, to a certain degree, the utility of sport expertise in sport betting cannot be fully ruled out. For example, it was previously found that factors such as the home field advantage, team rankings, most recent results of teams, and injuries of key players significantly affect game results[10–14]. It was then suggested that skills could be helpful when betting on sports events.
Probably in connection with these considerations in sport and football betting, defeats have been shown to be more often discussed than wins and were commonly attributed to unlikely or random events or were considered a “near win”, whereas wins were attributed to skills in selecting the victorious players. This interpretation probably contributes to an overestimation of betting skills.
It would be relevant to determine whether expertise is essential for determining game scores. If this were not the case, the alleged skills in sports betting could be regarded as no more than a manifestation of the illusion of control, as observed in most gambling activities.
With several exceptions, such as horse betting and hockey, the relation between gamblers’ skills and betting outcomes has been rarely studied. Studies that evaluated gambling skills rather than the role of expertise in sports for betting activities showed that monetary gains from gambling skills were not significantly higher than would have occurred by chance. Because of the wide popularity of football and football betting, it seems important from a public health policy perspective to assess the links between football expertise and prediction of match results.
The present study examined whether football experts were better than non-experts for predicting the scores of the first 10 matches of the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship.