Euro 2016: Betting with Discipline

Er, right.  This was going to show a lovely data visualisation of the Euro 2016 fixtures, the referees and the discipline of the teams.  The aim being to highlight games where we could target the Under/Over Booking Points markets or the spreads. That was until I realised that UEFA are only naming the officials three days in advance of games…. never mind…

Instead we will just have to take a look at the data and keep an eye on the appointments throughout the tournament.  Here are two simple visualisations, where 10 points are awarded for a yellow card and 25 points for a red. Two yellow cards leading to an automatic red will score as one yellow and one red card:

Fig 1: Average booking points per game by Euro 2016 Referee*


Fig 2: Average booking points per game by country from Euro 2016 Qualifying


As you can see from both, there is a decent spread in the number of cards that we can expect teams to receive and referees to give.  However my experience tells me that context is everything in these markets and it is rarely as simple as pairing a known card-chucker with two dirty teams.

Before getting involved in any booking markets, factors to consider are:

  • Kick-off time:  An earlier kick-off means less time on the booze for the fans and perhaps a less partisan atmosphere. Consider seating allocations too.
  • What is at stake: A last-chance saloon or a dead-rubber?
  • Line-ups: It is all very well having Razor Ruddock, Chopper Harris and a Sevilla-era Dani Alves contributing to a team’s historic stats, but if they are all suspended today…
  • Rivalry: Is it Germany versus Holland and the Germans arrived on old bikes?
  • Recent History: The second-leg of a feisty tie often comes with scores to settle
  • Cultural Differences: What is acceptable in one league (i.e. high tackles in England) may not go down so well with a Southern European ref.
  • Playing styles: Out and out wide men, playing against fullbacks that like to push forward, may well find themselves in space and being tackled from behind by a retreating defender or pulling a central defender out of position to “clean up” the danger.  In general, teams with pace or that frustrate the opposition can draw fouls.  You may even consider individual match-ups and mismatches.
  • Weather: A rain-slicked pitch ripe for sliding tackles can produce a different result to baking heat, with mandatory water-breaks for the players to cool off and calm down. Although the latter can exacerbate any tetchiness.
  • Likelihood of goals: Whilst a game is still 0-0 it can often be a little cagey, with teams content to hold their shape.  Forced to chase from a goal behind, teams will commit players forward, opening the game up and in all probability increase the number of mistakes.

Plus any more that you may feel are relevant to the circumstances.

So far in this tournament – at the time of writing  – the game with the most cards shown was Albania versus Switzerland: seven yellow cards, one of which was a second yellow.  Arch-pacifists Switzerland contributed just two of those cards. Albania as a mid-ranking team above, exceeded expectations.  The critical factor at play here was the referee: step forward table-topping Carlos Velasco Carballo.

Looking ahead to tomorrow (June 15) and it is a similar looking game that interests me again.  Switzerland this time are playing Romania, who in qualifying averaged 28.5 booking points per game themselves.  They will be marshalled by the Russian, Sergey Karasev, who if not quite in the dish-them-out-like-candy mould of Carballo has shown he is not afraid to give players their marching orders (12).  I’m going to wait for the markets to form fully and maybe the team news before taking any position.

Finally, most of the focus of this piece has been on the ‘Overs’ or where cards are likely.  I’ve always had a nagging suspicion that the market sees less action on the ‘Unders’ just because of human tendency to want to bet on something to happen rather than on something not to happen.  Is there a bias there? More analysis needed and something I plan to do ahead of the 2016-2017 season.

* based on Euro 2016 Qualifiers and 2015-2015 Champions League, Europa League and their home League Championship**

** where leagues are played in Summer, includes all 2015 games and 2016 games to date.



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