Thursday, December 08, 2005

8 December 2005: Gamble

As a side-note to the circus (which, if you missed it, has finally seen Pompey pay Saints an 'undisclosed' compensation sum or package for permission to talk to and appoint Harry as their new manager), Ireland Online (among others) reports that BetFair have had 'formative talks' with the English Football Association regarding Harry's appointment.

Those with a keen eye for words will have noticed that a lot of last week's blog touting Harry as Pompey's next manager (before Neil Warnock announced he was pulling out of the race) was based on two sources: firstly the fans on SaintsForever, some of whom actually do have inside knowledge, and secondly on the bookmakers, who at the time had Harry as very odds-on favourite and shortening all the time.

The reason for Harry's odds were the 16.5 million pounds bet on his return, a lot of which was placed before Warnock's announcement. In particular, one bookmaker took a £50,000 bet a couple of days before the Warnock thing, meaning although the press still heavily touted Warnock, the bookies were saying something totally different. Bookies themselves spread the risk: if someone places a huge bet at one particular bookmaker, that bookie will go to lots of others and place exactly the same bet, just in case they lose. As a result, most bookies have similar odds for most bets, and this was no different. One 50k bet meant Harry went odds-on at a time when he was nowhere near favourite. In other words, the person placing that bet god very good odds. 16-1, say? When the book opened, Harry was 100-1, but he'd come in since then.

So the rumour, let's state it, is that Harry or Harry-agent made a huge bet, whether it's the 50k or otherwise. SaintsForever has been awash with this for a few days, and now the papers are getting hold of it. It's no real secret why Harry left West Ham (but let's pretend it is and not mention anything about it here), but this dodgy deal seems far more public. Inside information, secret tapping-up talks between Harry and Pompey, a betting market saying something totally different to the 'official' line, and an amount of money placed that is larger than is placed on the Grand National.

Let's say that again, in case you missed it: the amount of money placed on 'who's Pompey's next manager' exceeded that which is placed annually on the Grand National. That's a lot. One Saints fan described it as 'the most crooked market I have ever seen.'

Upshot of all this:
  • Pompey have a manager who walked out on them last year because he didn't like the set-up at the club, but now he's back with the same set-up. Don't expect him to last beyond, or maybe even to, the end of the season.
  • Saints don't have a manager, and don't look like getting one imminently. Dave Bassett is currently in charge of picking bad players, annoying the press and moaning about the lack of stability at the club.
  • Someone - maybe a few people - have made a killing on this, and it's hard to think it wasn't down to some kind of inside information.
  • BetFair and the FA are discussing the possible launching of an inquiry into the highly unusual betting patterns.

You figure it out. It's a circus after all, and the show must go on.

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